Community and Public Health Nutrition
Low birthweight (LBW) is strongly associated with neonatal mortality. Evidence that nutrition education improves diet during pregnancy and reduces LBW is still weak. We investigated the effect of a nutrition education intervention for pregnant women in improving birthweight of infants. Our primary hypothesis was that women who receive the ‘balanced plate nutrition education’ during pregnancy would deliver babies 100 g heavier than those who receive standard nutrition education.
Methods : We conducted a parallel, two-arm, cluster-randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh, in which we randomly assigned 36 clusters in equal ratio to intervention or standard care. Participants in the intervention clusters received ‘balanced plate nutrition education’ with a practical demonstration from community health workers 4–7 times starting from the first trimester of pregnancy. The participants in the control clusters received standard nutrition education delivered by healthcare providers during antenatal care. Eligible participants were pregnant women of 12 weeks gestation or less. The primary outcome was mean birthweight and incidence of LBW (defined as birthweight less than 2500 gm). The trial is registered with number ACTRN12616000080426.
Results : We included all assigned participants in the intervention (445) and comparison (448) groups in the analyses (Figure 1). Baseline characteristics were balanced between the treatment groups (Table 1). The mean birthweight increased by 125.3 g (95% confidence interval (CI) 5·7, 244·9; p=0·04) and the risk of LBW was reduced by 54% (relative risk (RR) 0·46; 95% CI 0·28, 0·78; p=0·004) in the intervention compared to the comparison group (Table 2). In post hoc analyses amongst adolescent mothers we observed a significant improvement in birthweight and reduction in LBW (mean difference 297·3 g; 95% CI 85·0, 509·6; p=0·006 and RR 0·31; 95% CI 0·12, 0·77; p=0·01).
A community-based balanced plate nutrition education was effective in increasing birthweight and reducing the incidence of LBW in a rural population of Bangladesh.
Funding Sources : James P. Grant School of Public Health; Bangladesh, and Sydney Medical School; Australia.