Changes in children’s health and nutrition knowledge and skills using reading materials

Abstract

 Presenter (s) Ana Lucía Morales, Juárez and Associates, Inc.; Sophia Maldonado, Juárez and Associates, Inc.; Fernando Rubio, Juárez and Associates, Inc.

This poster will present the experience of the EDUCAMOS program in the implementation of a strategy that is contributing to improving students’ and teachers’ health and nutrition knowledge and habits and improving the interest and reading skills of children in the rural area of Guatemala, by using reading quality materials. The Education Program with Quality and Improved Food Oriented towards Sustainability- EDUCAMOS- is a USDA-funded program. It is executed by Project Concern International-PCI- with Juárez & Associates, Inc. (J&A). The program works in improving students’ nutrition and bilingual reading outcomes in six municipalities in the Mam and Q’anjob’al linguistic regions of Huehuetenango, a department in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, the department with the highest numbers of migrants to the US. The Human Development Index (HDI) of Huehuetenango is 0.399 and in education, the HDI is 0.371 (UNDP, 2016). Likewise, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition or height delay is 54.5% in first-grade students (SESAN, 2015). The project is implemented in complex rural conditions, with infrastructure conditions often precarious, with little access to basic services such as water, electricity, and toilets, among others.

Education and nutrition are fundamental rights of children for their integral development. Promoting and ensuring these rights is the responsibility of parents, community and the State. The work to be presented is based on evidence indicating that education is an effective means to promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle and encourage healthy eating practices (Li & Powdthavee, 2014). Reading is fundamental in the educational process. Reading is also a basic competency that improves children’s knowledge about health and nutrition, encourages and fosters behaviors that favor their health (Feinstein, et al., 2006). At the same time, a healthy and nourished child will have improved cognitive abilities, a greater disposition for learning and improved school performance (DesJardins and & Schuller, 2006). It’s important that teachers implement effective literacy methodologies, and have quality reading materials for children, particularly on topics that promote healthy habits.

It will also expose the challenges and lessons learned in the development and use of quality reading resources, with health and nutrition issues, that are consistent with the context, and that can be considered on other education or nutrition projects or contexts on a broader scale. This includes considering the level of reading of the students, the particularities of the Mayan languages, the practices of raising indigenous communities, as well as the pedagogical approach to topics that have had little to no address in this context. Reading materials will be made available for review and discussion. Implications for programmatic interventions addressing malnourishment, health, and early grades literacy will be discussed.

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