Dr. Shauna Downs, professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, has worked with colleagues at universities throughout the northeast to study the effects of mass media campaigns on the feeding practices of young children, publishing their findings in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
[Photo: Dr. Shauna Downs]
Chronic undernutrition continues to be a significant problem faced by nearly 160 million children worldwide, mainly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Efforts to address malnutrition remain a global priority in light of internationally adopted goals and targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Feeding children between 0 to 2 years old is an important strategy to address malnutrition, because the foods eaten during this time period impacts risk for disease. However, parents and caregivers often encounter conflicting advice on what, when, and how much to feed their children and may hold inaccurate beliefs about the best way to do so.
Dr. Downs, along with lead study author, Dr. Matthew Graziose, and colleagues from Columbia University and John Hopkins University, conducted a detailed review of eighteen recent studies to measure whether mass media interventions can improve child feeding practices in LMICs. They discovered that caregivers exposed to mass media interventions about how best to feed their young children were more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies, feed them appropriate complementary foods and use micronutrient supplements.
“While mass media interventions appear effective, in order to identify the best ways to share messages about child feeding practices more information about which types of messages, for which audiences and at what intensity is needed,” said Dr. Downs.
Mass media interventions can be a low-cost way to improve feeding practices in developing countries and help to tackle undernutrition.
“Systematic review of the design, implementation and effectiveness of mass media and nutrition education interventions for infant and young child feeding” was recently published in Public Health Nutrition.