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Abstract

Background: Infant mortality is a serious public health problem. One factor that is strongly associated with infant mortality is low weight in children. The percentage of underweight children under the age of five in Mozambique was 16% in 2012. In order to reduce the number of underweight children in this country, contributing caregiver characteristics of this problem should be investigated. One potentially relevant characteristic is maternal literacy, which has been under investigated. Objective: This study aims to determine whether maternal literacy affected the weight and body-mass-index (BMI) of children ages 0 to 3 years old in Mozambique.

Methodology: A cross-sectional study of 6,762 children between the ages of 0 and 47 months was conducted using the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey for Mozambique. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) procedures with Scheffe post hoc tests were performed in order to identify differences in mean child weight and BMI Z-score in reference to maternal literacy level, controlling for several covariates (e.g., mother’s weight, education). The data were analyzed using Statistical Analysis Software Version 9.4.

Results: In the study sample, 396 (6.05%) children were found to be underweight and 4467 (58.69%) of mothers were found to be illiterate. There was a statistically significant association between maternal literacy level and the weight and BMI of children between the ages of 0 and 3 years of age, after controlling for other known predictors. A trend of stronger association was observed for each one-year increase in child age.

Conclusions: Maternal literacy is significantly associated with child weight and BMI. Prioritizing secondary education for women is one important approach for ameliorating the risk of underweight children. Increased literacy rates in women could lead to better understanding of child nutritional needs, and ultimately, an overall reduction in the number of underweight children.

Keywords: Literacy, BMI, weight, Mozambique, maternal, infant, mortality

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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