Date of Award

5-13-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Shannon Self-Brown

Second Advisor

Iris Feinberg

Third Advisor

Whitney Rostad

Abstract

Background: Infant mortality rate is a serious problem in today’s society. This statistic is often used as one measure of a country’s success and growth. One factor that is strongly associated with infant mortality is low weight in children. In Mozambique, the percentage of underweight children under the age of five was 16% in 2012 (UNICEF, 2013). In order to reduce the number of underweight children in this country, characteristics of caregivers that could potentially contribute to this problem should be investigated. One particularly important characteristic is maternal literacy, which to date has been under investigated.

Objective: This study aimed to determine whether maternal literacy affected the weight and body-mass-index (BMI) of children ages 0 to 3 years old in Mozambique.

Methodology: A cross-sectional study of 6,762 children between the ages of 0 and 47 months was conducted using the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey for Mozambique. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) procedures with Scheffe post hoc tests were performed in order to identify differences in mean child weight and BMI Z-score in reference to maternal literacy level. The data were analyzed using Statistical Analysis Software Version 9.4.

Results: 396 (6.05%) of the children in the study sample were found to be underweight and 4467 (58.69%) of mothers were found to be illiterate. There was a statistically significant association between maternal literacy level and the weight and BMI of children between the ages of 0 and 3 years of age. Interestingly, a trend of stronger association was observed for each one-year increase in child age.

Conclusion: Maternal literacy is significantly associated with child weight and BMI. Therefore, prioritizing secondary education for women is one important approach for ameliorating the risk of underweight children. Increased literacy rates in women could lead to better understanding of child nutritional needs, and ultimately, an overall reduction in the number of underweight children.

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