Poster Topical Area: Global Nutrition
Location: Hall D
Poster Board Number: 591
Objectives: To pilot a novel survey instrument to identify distinct components of nutrition knowledge, and test for links between knowledge and dietary choices in Southern Malawi. Our first aim is to distinguish respondents' familiarity with recommended behaviors, such as when to start breastfeeding or introduce solid foods, from respondents' factual knowledge about mechanisms, such as whether biscuits or papaya and orange fruit or orange Fanta contribute more to future health. Our second aim is to test whether this expanded definition of nutrition knowledge is associated with dietary intake when controlling for other factors.
Methods: Our expanded nutrition knowledge survey includes measures of recommended behaviors for maternity care and diets in pregnancy, infant feeding and child diets, and hygiene and sanitation, plus a set of measures of food composition, food safety, and disease transmission. The new mechanistic questions concern functional relationships that underlie recommended behaviors.
Results: We find knowledge of nutrition behaviors to be strongly associated with more schooling, older age and being female, while knowledge of mechanisms is associated only with employment as a health professional (Fig. 1). We find wealth to be strongly positively associated with dietary diversity outcomes, and conditional on that we found that nutrition knowledge had no additional explanatory power for women's dietary diversity measured in a variety of ways. We find only suggestive evidence for significant links interacting nutrition knowledge with age of respondents. Having a garden is associated with greater likelihood of consuming micronutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, but also negatively associated with meeting minimum diet diversity presumably due to the absence of other foods.
Conclusion: These findings point to the need for knowledge surveys and public health behavior-change campaigns to address the kinds of information that might most influence actual behavior, potentially including the mechanisms involved in food composition, food safety and disease transmission. Our results demonstrate that establishing a foundation of factual knowledge about food composition, food safety and sanitation is different than building familiarity with recommended behaviors.
United States Agency for International Development under grant number (AID-OAA-A-15-00019) via Catholic Relief Services subcontract to Tufts University (SU0226/SU9226)
Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy