Topical Area: Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
Objectives : Young children in developing countries often maintain poor diets, evidenced by strikingly low dietary diversity. Through formative research, we identified the lack of knowledge and affordability as key barriers to improved infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices in Ethiopia. The aim of this study is to investigate ways to promote healthy IYCF by analyzing the impacts of an IYCF behavior change communication (BCC) program and food vouchers on mother’s IYCF knowledge and practices, and child growth.
Using a clustered randomized design, we compare the effects of two independent interventions—IYCF BCC program and food vouchers—on four study groups: BCC only (BCC), voucher only (Voucher), BCC and voucher (BCC+Voucher), and the control group. The BCC program offered weekly group IYCF sessions to mothers who has children between 4 to 20 months of age for 16 weeks, employing participatory learning methods. The voucher program provided food vouchers worth approximately 10 USD per month for four months, which could be used at nearby markets for purchasing a wide variety of food items. We identified 641 eligible households residing in 79 villages in Ejere through census. As shown in Figure 1, 79 villages were randomly assigned to one of the four study groups: BCC, Voucher, BCC+Voucher, and control. All eligible mothers living in treatment villages were invited to participate in the program to which the village she lives in was assigned.
We show that BCC improves maternal knowledge of nutrition and IYCF behaviors, while food vouchers alone do not (Figure 2). Impacts are largest when both knowledge and income constraints are addressed simultaneously through BCC+Voucher (Table 1). Only in this group do we see these treatments reducing stunting by 9 percentage points (Figure 3). Moreover, we show that BCC+Voucher prevented stunting from occurring during this critical age range rather than reversing it (Figure 4).
Our results suggest that, when both knowledge and income are intertwined challenges for improved child-feeding practices, addressing both constraints simultaneously may augment the positive impacts due to their complementary relationship.
Funding Sources : Africa Future Foundation