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Adequate Early Childhood Nutrition is Important for Improved Adolescent Educational outcomes

Posted:  Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Impact of Early Childhood Nutrition on Adolescent Educational outcomes

Sufficient nutrition for children, particularly in the initial years, is essential for ensuring better health and productivity from childhood to adulthood.

A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition focused on the association between early childhood nutrition and adolescent educational outcomes. Pregnant women and young children (up to 6 years of age) from 29 villages were enrolled in the study. Through India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), a balanced protein–energy supplement (corn-soya meal locally known as upma) was administered to expectant mothers and children belonging to 15 villages (intervention group) for a period of 3 years. The remaining 14 villages (control group) did not receive supplementation during the study period. After the end of the study period, the control group was offered supplementation for a period of 3 years. Both groups had access to public health programmes, such as immunisation and anaemia control, during pregnancy. Educational outcomes such as enrolment of children in school, schooling grades, and academic performance were measured.

More children from the intervention group were enrolled in schools and successfully completed their schooling compared to the children from the control group. Supplementary nutrition was not associated with the gender of the children, but girls were more likely to enrol in schools and complete a school grade compared to boys. Academic performance, as measured by school test scores, was not associated with the supplementary nutrition.

This study had some limitations. After the nutrition trial ended, supplementary nutrition was also offered to the control group. As a result of this, children born in the control group could have received extra nourishment when they were 3–6 years of age, and this might be the reason for better educational outcomes. A dose-response type analysis was not conducted due to the absence of reliable data on actual supplement intakes by participants.

Introducing nutritional supplement to pregnant women and children below six years of age led to a rise in school enrolment and completion when the children became adolescents. However, intervention was not associated with the school performance. Cooked meals provided at anganwadi centres may be nutritionally helpful if children or pregnant women receive their food intake at home. The study findings indicate that in view of the significant educational and health benefits associated with ICDS, this programme should be restructured and fully funded by the government.

News source - Nandi A, Ashok A, Kinra S, Behrman JR, Laxminarayan R. Early Childhood Nutrition Is Positively Associated with Adolescent Educational Outcomes: Evidence from the Andhra Pradesh Child and Parents Study (APCAPS). The Journal of Nutrition. 2016 Apr 1; 146(4):806-13.