Issue 10
Monday, 20 June 2016
Charles Darwin University
Dr Anna Szava … A year in rural Ethiopia
Dr Anna Szava … A year in rural Ethiopia

Student identifies key to better child health

By Patrick Nelson

A Charles Darwin University graduate says small changes to longstanding food customs would make a big difference to the health of young children in two remote Ethiopian villages.

Dr Anna Szava, who recently completed a PhD in nutritional anthropology through Menzies School of Health Research, spent a year among rural agricultural communities in south-west Ethiopia observing practices and gathering data.

“These are people who do not have a year-round supply of nutritionally diverse food,” Dr Szava said.

“The health of the children is fragile and the dietary quality of the families is deficient.

“My objective was to identify paths for better access to nutrients.”

Dr Szava said she learnt about the historic, social, cultural, economic, environmental and physical factors that explained young children’s food and nutrition security.

“I examined the availability of food, how it was accessed and how it was used, before determining several strategies that would lead to better nutritional outcomes for children and possibly for their communities.

“Easier access to water for households would make horticultural production more feasible and allow for improved personal hygiene, as one example.

“Similarly, the development of skills and technology for keeping small livestock, for crop storage and for preserving fruits and vegetables had the potential to improve food diversity and better availability. 

“There would be less competition for household resources if family planning was widely practised.”

Dr Szava said many caregivers were aware of the shortcomings of diet and of the need for improvement.

“They also demonstrated a reasonable understanding of the connection between health and nutrition, and a willingness to embrace change in some household practices.”

Now living in South Australia, Dr Szava was one of 140 students to graduate at CDU’s ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre.