Comparative assessment of the nutritional status of Haitian children during the transitional period in two Haitian communities

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The research reported in this study focused on the Ecosystem Approach as the ecological model most appropriate for the study of the nutritional status of pre-school children and the key roles played by the home and family environment. Sample subjects included children in the nutritionally vulnerable years (0-4 years) and their mothers.

The sample consisted of 228 Haitian children, 108 from the community of Lalomas, and 120 from St. Michael. The latter of the two sample areas is considered to be the more progressive of the two. While a Mothercraft Center had been in operation for 8 months in St. Michael, no nutrition education program was available in Lalomas. The short duration in which the Nutrition Center had been in operation prevented measurement of its impact on the community. Feeding habits, weaning practices, transitional diet, number of siblings in the family, and age and literacy level of the mother were areas investigated in the study. The nutritional status of children was determined via height and weight measurements and comparison to the Stuart's standard.

Over one-third of the children (34.2 percent) were classified as moderately or severely malnourished. Younger children (0-12 months), and those not yet weaned, evidenced consistently fewer cases of moderate or severe malnutrition. This pattern was apparent in both communities. The transitional diet was found to be characterized by foods readily available in the community, e.g., cassava, plantain and legumes.

It is suggested that future research concentrate on the age composition of the family; specifically, are families composed of several children in the nutritionally vulnerable age category more prone to lower nutritional status than families with only one vulnerable child.