Young Research Group students attend American Society for Nutrition’s 2018 conference

On the weekend of June 9th, five students from the Young Research Group had the opportunity to travel to Boston, Massachusetts and present their senior research projects at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual Nutrition 2018 conference. Each senior was accepted to give a poster presentation and senior Jordan Harris was also nominated for the Emerging Leaders award. This award highlights promising research submitted by students and young investigators.

Funding was provided by conference travel grants within the Program in Global Health Studies, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences.

Sophia Olmos presented her research on a systematic literature review that explored the relationship between women’s empowerment and child nutrition. With this literature review, she along with other members of the Young Research Group screened over 50,000 articles, finding only 53 that appropriately measured, defined, and investigated women’s empowerment and child nutrition. This research uncovered crucial gaps in current literature, such as a lack of longitudinal research on women’s empowerment, a need for a culturally sensitive and concrete definition of women’s empowerment, and a lack of data sets specifically designed to measure women’s empowerment and its effects on child nutrition.

Amy Lin presented her findings on gender differences and household water insecurity. Her research focused on how men and women living under the same roof perceive water insecurity through a variety of different household tasks. After analyzing data from 455 households in Singida, Tanzania, there were significant differences between how men and women experienced water-related tasks. Women were far more likely to be actually responsible for the often difficult task of procuring water, while men reported far more frequent experiences of water insecurity for all categories of water-related household tasks. A theme that emerged was men were significantly more likely to report experiencing water insecurity in areas related to public appearance, household finances, and agriculture. This research adds to the existing literature that stresses the need of understanding how gender and social dynamics come into play, which will help to gather accurate measures of water insecurity and create effective intervention programs.

Kathleen Clark presented a study on food insecurity and infant morbidity. Specifically, she led an analysis using data collected during Dr. Sera Young’s Pith Moromo study following a cohort of over 300 infant-mother pairs in Nyanza, Kenya. Using data from the three months postpartum, she explored the relationship between a mother’s food insecurity and her infant’s inflammatory illness. Findings showed a strong correlation between high food insecurity and the likelihood of infant fever and respiratory (and to a lesser degree, gastrointestinal) symptoms. Additional risk factors for infant illness included maternal illness and residence in Nyanza’s peri-urban regions. More promisingly, the study showed that maternal HIV did not correlate with increased infant illness, and frequent antenatal care visits were protective against general infant morbidity. Given the lifelong effects of health during early infancy, the study lends additional urgency to policy changes and interventions that bolster a mother’s health (both during and after pregnancy), food security, and quality of life in western Kenya.

Brooke Hassan presented her study on the association between male attendance at antenatal care (ANC), male involvement in childcare, and subsequent child nutrition in Singida, Tanzania. In low and middle-income countries, male attendance at ANC clinic visits is typically low. Currently, the Tanzanian government is attempting to increase levels of male attendance, yet information on the effects of these interventions has been limited. This project sought to determine the prevalence of male attendance at ANC clinic visits in Singida, as well as the relationships between male attendance and child nutrition, male attendance and involvement in childcare, and involvement in childcare and child nutrition. Using surveys from 545 households as part of SNAP, results were analyzed and the study concluded that while male attendance at ANC clinic visits was surprisingly high, at 71.9%, there was no association between any of the three pathways. These results may be attributed to the fact that only a very small portion of participants (6.3%) indicated that they received any sort of education or information surrounding the male role in childcare during their clinic visit. Thus, efforts aimed at increasing male attendance in Tanzania have been successful, but do not have any noticeable effects on their involvement in childcare or child nutrition, potentially due to the lack of education received during clinic visits.

Jordan Harris presented her research on the relationship between women’s hours of work and child nutrition in Singida, Tanzania. This project sought to investigate the relationship between maternal work and child care in a low-resource setting where women carry a significant proportion of the household workload. Cross-sectional data were collected from the Singida Nutrition & Agroecology Project (SNAP-Tz), an intervention and participatory study. Over 500 female farmers self-reported time spent doing household, agricultural, and non-agricultural economic work in the prior 24-hour period. Child nutrition was measured using the Child Dietary Diversity Score (DDS, range: 0-7) and captured 24-hour food frequency. Analysis of this data showed a positive correlation between hours of light household work and child nutrition, and contrastly, a negative correlation between hours of agriculture work and child nutrition.This research adds to the existing literature exploring how women’s work can impact child care, and provides an opportunity to explore how women’s decision-making power and dietary choices impact child nutrition.

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