Nutrition of children is crucial for normal physical, mental, and social development especially in the 6 to 24 months age group, as they are in the fast growing phase. Literature has reported under-nourishment as one of the causes of child mortality, which implies that addressing under-nourishment in children is one way of reducing child mortality. Nutrition guidelines for infants and children have been formulated by the World Health Organisation and the National Department of Health in South Africa. In spite thereof, there is a concern about the children between the ages of 6 to 24 months from a particular township in Gauteng who suffer from under-nourishment.
The aim of this study was to develop strategies to improve feeding practices among caregivers of children aged 6 to 24 months residing in the particular township. Method: The researcher followed a qualitative paradigm that was explorative and descriptive.
The first phase was to collect and describe current caregivers feeding practices (including cultural practices) of children 6 to 24 months. Data collection was done by means of two focus groups with purposively selected caregivers of children aged 6 to 24 months admitted in paediatric ward and diagnosed with under-nourishment alone or under-nourishment accompanied by other diseases. Caregivers' suggestions on how they can nourish their children aged 6 to 24 months was explored and described. The collected data was transcribed and coded into themes and sub-themes, followed by literature control. Caregivers suggested the following measures to improve their children's nutritional status: discarding old habits and adding new habits; introducing feeding pattern; the need to be provided with knowledge regarding factors associated with nutritional status; having access to information regarding financial management.
The strategies were then based on the following themes: (1) educating and training caregivers regarding (food groups, nutrition and malnutrition, preparation of food, hygienic maintenance of utensils and hands, Introducing and adhering to a certain feeding pattern and frequency, creation of small gardens, subsistence farming and the use of recyclable water and proper financial planning and budget (2) to motivate caregivers to enhance nutrition. The second phase was to refine the strategies with the inputs from purposively selected healthcare professionals based on their knowledge regarding nutrition of children. The completeness of the strategies were disconfirmed by healthcare professionals based on the fact that educating caregivers on food groups alone without simple meal plans and augmentation of available funds to buy those food groups was inadequate. Furthermore, drought, which leads to water restriction and lack of funds to buy seeds, hamper the sustainability of subsistence farming.
The significance of the study was that the caregivers, being responsible for nutrition of the children and being co-contributors of these strategies, buy-in was expected to improve the nutrition of the children and to improve nutritional health status. It is further expected that the strategies will be relevant and useful to other caregivers in the township.
Dissertation (MCur)--University of Pretoria, 2016.