Vitamin a status of 6-10 year old children and some associated factors in Gachoka, Mbeere district, Kenya
The study was carried out to determine household characteristics and individual child factors associated with vitamin A status of primary school children aged 6-10 years in Gachoka Division, Mbeere District, Kenya. Six schools were randomly sampled for the study namely; Ngenge, Mutus, Gatumbiri, Igumori, Kamurugu and Mutuobare primary schools from which study children were sampled. A total of 330 children, 51.2% females and 48.8% males and their respective households were studied. Blood and stool samples collected from 120 children were examined for serum retinol levels and gastrointestinal parasites respectively. Dietary data, based on a twenty-four hour recall was collected for 140 children while clinical examination for vitamin A deficiency was done on 287 children. Qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection were employed in the study. The main study tool was a structured questionnaire which was supplemented with focus group discussion, key informant interviews and secondary data. Serum retinol levels and prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites were determined with the aid of well-equipped laboratories and technicians. Results of the study indicate that 37.5% of the children are vitamin A deficient with serum retinol values <10 pg/dl. Alarming rates of nightblindness (9.8%) and Bitot’s spots (26.8%) were also observed. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency was numerically higher among females (57.8%) than in men (42.2%) and tended to increase with age. Gastrointestinal parasites were prevalent among the children with 61.7% of the children having one or more of these. Children’s nutrient intake expressed a Percentage of the recommended dietary allowances was relatively high for all nutrients considered namely proteins; iron and calories except for vitamin A that stood at 55%. factors associated with the vitamin A status of school children in the study area were child’s age and gastrointestinal parasites, specifically hookworm and Endolimax nana. This was true when vitamin A status was assessed by either clinical signs or serum retinol levels. Other factors namely, child’s sex, socio-economic status, household income, maternal knowledge on vitamin A, maternal education, Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, malaria, upper respiratory tract infections, abdominal pains, nutrients intake and consumption frequency of vitamin A rich foods did not have a significant association with children’s vitamin A status. In summary, vitamin A deficiency is a problem of public health significance among school children aged 6-10 years in Gachoka, Mbeere District. Additionally, results indicate hookworm, Endolimax nana and child’s age as major factors that are associated with the vitamin A status of school children in the study area. Based on the study findings, it is recommended that vitamin A status of school children in other areas of the country be determined. Vitamin A supplementation and establishment of a routine deworming Programme of the school children in the study area, may go a long way in improving the vitamin A status of these children.