Rural moms’ cooking secrets are a lifesaving recipe
University of KZN researchers are tapping mothers' expertise to reduce one of the leading causes of death among SA kids
Rural mothers will share their tried-and-tested recipes with University of KwaZulu-Natal researchers for the compilation of a recipe book that will contain healthy and affordable dishes for better child nutrition.
The book is part of the Optimal Child Growth and Development (OrCHID) project, launched by the university’s African Health research flagship.
The research flagship – one of the four created by the university – is aimed at reducing the leading causes of death among SA children in particular, by finding solutions that could help the government implement viable strategies and policies.
A 2018 Statistics SA report showed that malnutrition remained a serious problem facing SA children‚ with Gauteng‚ the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal reporting the highest number of young children who are stunted, while North West and the Western Cape have the highest percentage of children who are underweight.
The OrCHID project consists of two existing birth cohorts – Mother and Child in the Environment (Mace) and Sonke.
“Mace is based in the urban areas of eThekwini, while Sonke is focused on pesticides exposures in rural communities and neurocognitive birth outcomes in uMkhanyakhude, northern KwaZulu-Natal,” said Professor Rajen Naidoo, an expert from the School of Nursing and Public Health who is part of OrCHID.
Through the project researchers wanted “to better understand environmental pollution, nutritional factors and family-social factors that influence the development of the child”.
“The first step is to understand what effect these factors have on growth and development, and then shape potential interventions that will reduce the risk for adverse outcomes. “The two outcomes of concern to us are respiratory ill-health and neurocognitive (brain functioning) outcomes,” Naidoo said.
“Through the interventions we are considering (targeted parenting programmes, dietary interventions, clinical assessments of respiratory health, early childhood brain stimulation and pollution monitoring) we hope that we can reduce the adverse effects of these factors, and therefore improve the health of the child.”
Researchers also want to improve their ability to participate more effectively at school.
When it came to the nutrition aspect, Naidoo said the recipe book would be compiled by the research team, led by dietetics expert Christen Lahner.
The team would work closely with rural mothers and caregivers who would share their recipes through focus-group discussions.
“Locally produced foods with high nutrition content will be identified and recipes developed.
“The intention is to have caregivers prepare healthy foods from locally available and sourced raw produce, which will hopefully lead to better and more affordable diets among children and their families.”
Professor Anil Chuturgoon, an expert from the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, who is also part of the project, said: “We need to stop looking at the West for solutions to our problems and start looking at our own continent.
“We have the solutions to our problems, we have the state-of-the-art equipment and researchers to pull it of.”