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Culture and community perceptions on diet for maternal and child health: a qualitative study in rural Northern Ghana

Culture and community perceptions on diet for maternal and child health: a qualitative study in rural Northern Ghana
Culture and community perceptions on diet for maternal and child health: a qualitative study in rural Northern Ghana

Background: this study explored cultural and community perceptions of optimal diet for maternal and child health in northern Ghana. Methods: This was an exploratory cross-sectional study using qualitative methods for data collection. Data were collected between March and April 2019 consisting of 10 focus group discussions with men and women community members between 18 and 50 years in the Kassena-Nankana districts of Ghana. Data were organised using QSR NVivo 12 qualitative software to facilitate thematic analysis. 

Results: all study participants recognised the importance of an optimal diet for mother, child and better pregnancy and breastfeeding outcomes. However, there were different cultural beliefs and taboos about what foods are healthy and non-healthy for women at different stages of the reproductive period. Foods perceived to be unhealthy for pregnant women were fatty foods and fresh meat (uncooked or unprocessed meat) due to the belief that they can lead to delivery complications, which many women feared. In addition, some participants relayed the cultural belief that pregnant woman should not eat eggs because it would make the child a thief. Lactating mothers are not to eat foods such as vigna subterranean known locally as bambara bean and “gari” (local meal made from cassava) because it is believed to inhibit breastmilk production. Participants emphasised that food insecurity and economic constraints meant women could not achieve optimal diet and could not afford to be selective in food choices. 

Conclusion: community members recognized the importance of optimal nutrition but were constrained by poverty and cultural barriers. A dual approach which targets improvements of local food production and economic empowerment in combination with community-based discussion and education of the impacts of food taboos on health, should facilitate improvement in the diets of women and future generations.

Culture, Diet, Maternal and child health, Northern Ghana, Nutrition, Perceptions
Dalaba, Maxwell A.
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Nonterah, Engelbert A.
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Chatio, Samuel T.
9335e5cc-b71c-4366-9066-f9f2b487c000
Adoctor, James K.
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Watson, Daniella
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Barker, Mary
374310ad-d308-44af-b6da-515bf5d2d6d2
Ward, Kate
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Debpuur, Cornelius
86cc89d7-984e-4a7b-8130-5461a00d2bec
Dalaba, Maxwell A.
858bc193-bfbc-451f-a771-03ec003c761d
Nonterah, Engelbert A.
aacb7a34-ceef-4a9f-93b8-707a29db42c6
Chatio, Samuel T.
9335e5cc-b71c-4366-9066-f9f2b487c000
Adoctor, James K.
5bd7472d-5987-48d4-974f-cee5e3922d22
Watson, Daniella
26005c9f-779f-407b-b7e4-b7c9b812b6be
Barker, Mary
374310ad-d308-44af-b6da-515bf5d2d6d2
Ward, Kate
39bd4db1-c948-4e32-930e-7bec8deb54c7
Debpuur, Cornelius
86cc89d7-984e-4a7b-8130-5461a00d2bec

Dalaba, Maxwell A., Nonterah, Engelbert A., Chatio, Samuel T., Adoctor, James K., Watson, Daniella, Barker, Mary, Ward, Kate and Debpuur, Cornelius (2021) Culture and community perceptions on diet for maternal and child health: a qualitative study in rural Northern Ghana. BMC Nutrition, 7 (1), [36]. (doi:10.1186/s40795-021-00439-x).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background: this study explored cultural and community perceptions of optimal diet for maternal and child health in northern Ghana. Methods: This was an exploratory cross-sectional study using qualitative methods for data collection. Data were collected between March and April 2019 consisting of 10 focus group discussions with men and women community members between 18 and 50 years in the Kassena-Nankana districts of Ghana. Data were organised using QSR NVivo 12 qualitative software to facilitate thematic analysis. 

Results: all study participants recognised the importance of an optimal diet for mother, child and better pregnancy and breastfeeding outcomes. However, there were different cultural beliefs and taboos about what foods are healthy and non-healthy for women at different stages of the reproductive period. Foods perceived to be unhealthy for pregnant women were fatty foods and fresh meat (uncooked or unprocessed meat) due to the belief that they can lead to delivery complications, which many women feared. In addition, some participants relayed the cultural belief that pregnant woman should not eat eggs because it would make the child a thief. Lactating mothers are not to eat foods such as vigna subterranean known locally as bambara bean and “gari” (local meal made from cassava) because it is believed to inhibit breastmilk production. Participants emphasised that food insecurity and economic constraints meant women could not achieve optimal diet and could not afford to be selective in food choices. 

Conclusion: community members recognized the importance of optimal nutrition but were constrained by poverty and cultural barriers. A dual approach which targets improvements of local food production and economic empowerment in combination with community-based discussion and education of the impacts of food taboos on health, should facilitate improvement in the diets of women and future generations.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 23 April 2021
Published date: 15 July 2021
Additional Information: Funding Information: The authors acknowledge with gratitude all the support and contributions from the various institutions and individuals. Firstly, we would like to acknowledge the support provided by the Navrongo Health Research Centre to the research team to conduct this study. We specifically like to acknowledge the contributions of the following research officers: Edith Dambayi, Esmond W. Nonterah and Doreen Ayi-Bisah for their contribution to data collection in the field. We are also thankful to the community members who participated in the focus group discussions for sharing their views about maternal and child nutrition. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s). Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
Keywords: Culture, Diet, Maternal and child health, Northern Ghana, Nutrition, Perceptions

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 451256
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/451256
PURE UUID: f98bcbd4-bfc6-4064-a730-6e4c094770c2
ORCID for Mary Barker: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2976-0217
ORCID for Kate Ward: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7034-6750

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 15 Sep 2021 16:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:05

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Contributors

Author: Maxwell A. Dalaba
Author: Engelbert A. Nonterah
Author: Samuel T. Chatio
Author: James K. Adoctor
Author: Daniella Watson
Author: Mary Barker ORCID iD
Author: Kate Ward ORCID iD
Author: Cornelius Debpuur

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