Factors influencing child nutritional status in Kenya
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Child malnutrition affects many children aged below 36 months in Kenya. The main objective of this study was to find out the bio-demographic. socio-economic and cultural factors influencing child malnutrition in Kenya. The data used was drawn from the 1998 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS). The analyses were done both at the bivariate and the multivariate levels. At the multivariate level, the study used two logistic regression models whereby selected bio-dernographic, socioeconomic, and cultural factors were regressed against two proxy measures of malnutrition (height-for-age/stunting and weight-for-height/wasting) as the dependent variables. The bivariate results revealed that maternal education. paternal education, preceding birth interval of the child, type of place of residence, exposure of the mother to the media. main source of drinking water, presence of toilet/latrine facility. and ethnicity had a significant association with the prevalence of stunting among children at the 5 percent level. The multivariate analysis results indicated that of these variables, only maternal age at birth, ...~..• maternal education, paternal education, and' exposure of the 'mother to the media had a significant influence on the odds of stunting among children. , Further, the bivariate analysis showed that maternal education, preceding birth interval of the child, and mother's exposure to the media were significantly associated with the prevalence of wasting among children. The multivariate analysis on the other hand revealed that only maternal education and the preceding birth interval of the child had a significant effect on the odds of wasting among children. IV Thus, the strongest predictors of child malnutrition in Kenya are: maternal education. paternal education, maternal age at birth, preceding birth interval and the exposure of the mother to the media messages and information. The malnutrition status of a child is therefore determined by a variety of interrelated factors that are bio-dernographic, and socio-economic in nature. It is imperative to note therefore that the roots of malnutrition extend beyond the reach and influence of health and nutrition, into the socio-economic lifestyle of the people. Hence, there is need for a multidisciplinary approach to combat child malnutrition in Kenya. The following are some of the policy recommendations that should be undertaken: The government. non-governmental organisations. and other stakeholders should intensify programmes that are aimed at improving not only the girl child education. but also the general literacy levels in the country. Given that closer preceding birth intervals of the child and younger ages at motherhood promote child malnutrition, it is important that people be accessed to appropriate family planning information, as well as the facilities that will enable them make informed decisions regarding limiting or delaying their births. Strategies that are meant to improve the livirrg standards of Kenyans need to be worked out. This will enable majorities to be accessed to the basic needs of life, as well as better sanitation. factors that will enhance the nutritional status of children. Further research should be conducted using other measures of child malnutrition (such as the underweight index) other than the measures that were used in this study to find out whether the same results can be obtained. --. v Furthermore, future research should attempt to find out the channels through which these factors act to influence the nutritional status of children. Lastly, a similar study should be done applying a different analytical procedure (such as probit regression) to find out whether better results can be obtained.