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To explore community perceptions on maternal and child nutrition issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Thirty focus groups with men and women from three communities facilitated by local researchers.
One urban (Soweto, South Africa) and two rural settings (Navrongo, Ghana and Nanoro, Burkina Faso) at different stages of economic transition.
Two hundred thirty-seven men and women aged 18–55 years, mostly subsistence farmers in Navrongo and Nanoro and low income in Soweto.
Differences in community concerns about maternal and child health and nutrition reflected the transitional stage of the country. Community priorities revolved around poor nutrition and hunger caused by poverty, lack of economic opportunity and traditional gender roles. Men and women felt they had limited control over food and other resources. Women wanted men to take more responsibility for domestic chores, including food provision, while men wanted more involvement in their families but felt unable to provide for them. Solutions suggested focusing on ways of increasing control over economic production, family life and domestic food supplies. Rural communities sought agricultural support, while the urban community wanted regulation of the food environment.
To be acceptable and effective, interventions to improve maternal and child nutrition need to take account of communities’ perceptions of their needs and address wider determinants of nutritional status and differences in access to food reflecting the stage of the country’s economic transition. Findings suggest that education and knowledge are necessary but not sufficient to support improvements in women’s and children’s nutritional status.
To obtain a community perspective on key nutrition-specific problems and solutions for mothers and children.
A qualitative study comprising nine focus group discussions (FGD) following a semi-structured interview guide.
The township of Soweto in South Africa with a rising prevalence of double burden of malnutrition.
Men and women aged ≥18 years (n 66). Three FGD held with men, six with women.
Despite participants perceived healthy diet to be important, they felt their ability to maintain a healthy diet was limited. Inexpensive, unhealthy food was easier to access in Soweto than healthier alternatives. Factors such as land use, hygiene and low income played a fundamental role in shaping access to foods and decisions about what to eat. Participants suggested four broad areas for change: health sector, social protection, the food system and food environment. Their solutions ranged from improved nutrition education for women at clinic visits, communal vegetable gardens and government provision of food parcels to regulatory measures to improve the healthiness of their food environment.
South Africa’s current nutrition policy environment does not adequately address community-level needs that are often linked to structural factors beyond the health sector. Our findings suggest that to successfully address the double burden of malnutrition among women and children, a multifaceted approach is needed combining action on the ground with coherent policies that address upstream factors, including poverty. Further, there is a need for public engagement and integration of community perspectives and priorities in developing and implementing double-duty actions to improve nutrition.
In the past decade, South Africa’s obesity epidemic has increased in both children and adults, and being overweight is becoming the norm. Several contributing factors lead to the normalisation of obesity. One of these is the culturally entrenched likeness of larger body sizes or shapes within a milieu of easily accessible unhealthy food and beverages. This qualitative study advances knowledge about the influence of socio-cultural norms and obesogenic environments on weight under estimation and ‘obesity normalisation’ amongst black South Africans living in an urban setting.
A theory-based qualitative study used focus group discussions (FGDs) with a semi-structured interview guide. FGDs were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using a constant comparison method.
Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, is a setting which has undergone rapid urbanisation and nutrition transition with ubiquitous availability of processed and fast-foods.
Adults older than 18 years living in Soweto (n 57).
There is a wide misperception about obesity amongst black Africans living in an urban setting in Soweto. Participants who admitted to being fat or overweight did not view themselves as such. This could be attributed to unchanging socio-cultural factors that reinforce the acceptability of bigger bodies and living in obesogenic environment.
Without addressing socio-cultural norms that attribute bigger bodies to beauty and wealth, motivating individuals to address weight gain will prove difficult especially for populations living in obesogenic environments. A multi-faceted strategy is required to address obesity in urban South African settings.
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