|Dr. Mutinta Hambayi Nseluke
A Tall Order: Improving Child Linear Growth Diets, Transitions and Maternal Education
Wim Groot and Nyasha Tirivayi
The overriding purpose of this PhD dissertation was to study local diets and the causal effects of maternal education on child linear growth. The analysis further looked into determinants of growth transitioning probabilities for stunted vs non-stunted state.
The study focusses on stunting and linear growth outcomes for children 6-59 months old in Malawi.
Using quantitative analysis techniques on nationwide datasets, findings reveal that a broad range of causes of stunting encompass child, maternal and household socioeconomic factors. Regarding diet, milk and eggs show the most potential for improving child linear growth. The importance of Animal Source Foods is supported though benefits may differ according age, food group and wealth status. Using a Markov model, transitioning probabilities reveal the potential for a proportion of the children to become non-stunted but less likely do so if they were stunted at an early age. Slightly over a third (35%) of the children remained stunted, mirroring the current levels of stunting in Malawi of 37%. Protective factors are maternal education, nutrition programs and a diverse diet while risk factors are being less than two years old, history of illness, being a female child and household asset poverty. Finally, on the causal effect of increased education on stunting, a one year increase in maternal schooling makes the offspring taller by 0.202 standard deviation and reduces stunting by 7 percentage points or 17.6 at population level. Therefore, educating girls can be an effective strategy to improve child growth.
Taken together, as part of the stunting solutions, findings suggest the importance of milk and eggs in the diet, participating in nutrition programs and increased maternal education are cornerstone for improving child linear growth. Findings and recommendations of this dissertation provide evidence on what is contextually relevant, potential entry points, in education, health and agriculture and need for a comprehensive approach to address the persisting levels of stunting in Malawi.