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A Multisectoral Food-Assisted Integrated Health and Nutrition Program Targeted to Women and Children in the First 1000 Days Increases Attainment of Language and Motor Milestones among Young Burundian Children

Child development is affected by multiple factors throughout pregnancy and childhood. Multisectoral programs addressing these factors may improve children’s development. We evaluated the impact of a food-assisted multisectoral nutrition program (Tubaramure) on children’s (4– 41.9 mo) motor and language development. Tubaramure was targeted to Burundian women and children in the first 1000 d and provided micronutrient-fortified food rations; nutrition, health, and hygiene behavior change communication; and health system–strengthening activities. Program impact was assessed using a cluster-randomized controlled trial with repeated cross-sections: 2010 (baseline, children 4–41.9 mo), 2012 (follow-up during implementation, children 4–23.9 mo), and 2014 (follow-up postimplementation, children 24–41.9 mo). Sixty villages were randomly assigned to 4 groups with varying timing and duration of food rations: pregnancy–24 mo; pregnancy–18 mo; 0–24 mo; and control, no direct Tubaramure benefits. Treatment groups were pooled and compared with control using difference-in-difference estimates. We examined impact pathways by assessing program impacts on intermediary variables and their associations with development outcomes. At first follow-up, Tubaramure positively affected language (0.4 milestones, P < 0.05) but not motor development among children aged 4–23.9 mo. Among the 12–23.9 mo age subgroup, the program positively affected language (0.7 milestones, P < 0.01) and motor (0.6 milestones, P = 0.08) development. At second follow-up, among children aged 24–41.9 mo, Tubaramure marginally affected motor development (0.4 milestones, P = 0.09). In age subgroup analyses, program impacts were limited to children aged 24–29.9 mo [0.4 motor (P = 0.09) and 1.0 language (P < 0.01) milestones]. Pathway analyses revealed significant positive impacts on diet, health, and nutritional indicators of children aged 12–23.9 mo and health and nutritional indicators of children aged 24–29.9 mo, supporting the plausibility of program impacts on child development. Tubaramure had small positive impacts on children’s motor and language development through multiple pathways, demonstrating the role multisectoral nutrition programs can play in improving children’s development.

The Journal of Nutrition Olney et al. December 2019
  • East and Southern Africa
  • Research
  • Scientific publication