FH study connects a mother’s worldview and child malnutrition

By May 10, 2013

Bolivia (MNN) — Whether a mom thinks God wants her baby to survive or not could actually affect the child's well-being.

Food for the Hungry says a study they conducted last month in Bolivia shows this idea. Moms there who believed that God wants all children to survive were about 15 times more likely to have a healthy kid. The idea that God wants all children to survive is based on Isaiah 65:20: "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days…."

The study did not examine whether the mothers' beliefs were generated from this biblical text, but rather if the mothers' beliefs aligned with this text.

"Believing that God does not want all children to survive may make mothers less likely to take action to protect their children or treat their illnesses," says Tom Davis, FH's Chief Program Officer.

Poor nutrition contributes to about one-third of child deaths globally. Progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing under-age-five mortality is lagging in many countries.

This simple concept, based on Biblical truth, could do a lot to reduce child mortality worldwide. Pray that the Truth of God's love would change lives.

"At this point, we want to be careful to say that this study has been 'hypothesis generating' rather than 'hypothesis confirming,' but we will continue to explore the significant findings with further studies in other FH areas of operation," adds Davis.

The privately-funded study was carried out among poor Bolivian mothers from several provinces, and included 94 children between 1 and 5 years old. The goal was to examine the relationship between gender, spiritual beliefs, outcomes, and behavior — specifically in the area of maternal childcare practices.

"We've seen consistent anecdotal evidence to support the influence of beliefs and worldview on behavior," says Davis.

"However, this study went to the next level to systematically discover the impact of beliefs, and prioritize which beliefs are most associated with good childcare and outcomes."

FH also saw the impact of mothers' beliefs in Mozambique, where an estimated 6,848 children's lives were saved during a five-year FH-led child survival project. One early project activity was to promote the Isaiah 65:20 belief, emphasizing that "one day, no more children will die."

By this project's second year, 86% of the women interviewed using a random sample had adopted this belief. At the program's completion, under-nutrition in children younger than two years of age declined by 38%.

"This is one of the world's best examples so far of what can be achieved at low cost to improve the health of children in high-mortality, low-resource settings," said Dr. Henry Perry, Senior Associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomburg School of Health, when speaking of FH's program in Mozambique.

To learn more about what FH does to increase child survival, click here.

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