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Despite efforts to improve maternal and child nutrition, undernutrition remains a major public health challenge in Ghana. The current study explored community perceptions of undernutrition and context-specific interventions that could improve maternal and child nutrition in rural Northern Ghana.
This exploratory qualitative study used ten focus group discussions to gather primary data. The discussions were recorded, transcribed and coded into themes using Nvivo 12 software to aid thematic analysis.
The study was conducted in rural Kassena-Nankana Districts of Northern Ghana.
Thirty-three men and fifty-one women aged 18–50 years were randomly selected from the community.
Most participants reported poverty, lack of irrigated agricultural land and poor harvests as the main barriers to optimal nutrition. To improve maternal and child nutrition, study participants suggested that the construction of dams at the community level would facilitate all year round farming including rearing of animals. Participants perceived that the provision of agricultural materials such as high yield seedlings, pesticides and fertiliser would help boost agricultural productivity. They also recommended community-based nutrition education by trained health volunteers, focused on types of locally produced foods and appropriate ways to prepare them to help improve maternal and child nutrition.
Drawing on these findings and existing literature, we argue that supporting community initiated nutrition interventions such as improved irrigation for dry season farming, provision of agricultural inputs and community education could improve maternal and child nutrition.
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.
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