Children as Agents of Change in Nutrition Programmes

Nutrition is a huge subject for us.

It’s one of our core 10 topics and, as with our other topics we have developed 10 nutrition messages linked to nutrition that we think of as the minimum requirement. We feel that all children should leave primary school understanding, knowing and being able to share these ten messages. We regard each of our nutrition messages as a doorway into conversations that children can have with each other and in their families.

As many of our readers know, for many years we have been involved in piloting a nutrition education approach in Mozambique where primary school aged children become advocates for good nutrition. They support each other and share knowledge in the family. The approach uses fun activities that help to engage and sustain the children’s interest and that enables them to share the ideas with others.

July is the month in which we focus on nutrition issues and we post an easy-to-accesss list of the messages! So why this post on nutrition in November?

Three reasons.

  1. At the end of this month, we are pleased to be joining the FAO at a three-day International Expert Consultation in Abu Dhabi to discuss, “Stepping Up School-Based Food and Nutrition Education: Exploring the Challenges, Finding Solutions and Building Partnerships.”
  2. We are pleased to be participating in a one day London-based meeting of a small ‘interest group’ of researchers and practitioners to discuss Adolescent Nutrition and Development.
  3. We are actively seeking a role as a research partner alongside an established nutrition research team. As with our programmatic work, we seek academic partnerships whereby we are able to test assumptions and help build evidence. We can best do this alongside world-leading research teams.

We are often asked by researchers for the ‘evidence’ around children or young adolescents as agents of change in health as many programmes are trying to strengthen or develop more participatory approaches into their work. You may be one of these!

Here is a recent discovery  of a programme that evaluated the effect of a participatory approach based on the Theory of Planned Behavior on the Eating Behaviours of Children at Primary School. The findings of this evaluation suggested that a participatory approach is an effective method for the improvement of correct eating behaviours in children.

However, research is expensive and so far we have not found much high quality research linked to nutrition education testing the impact of involving children as agents of change.

Children writing a poster as part of the PCAAN programme
Children doing a participatory nutrition activity in their health club

We have been involved in the evaluation of a nutrition education programme in Mozambique. You can access the PCAAN case study here.

As a part of this, we conduct a ‘Rapid Sift‘ to bring together the available information relating to the impact of enabling children to influence behaviour change in the field of health, nutrition and hygiene. The scope of this study has been limited to these three areas and only papers published between October 2005 and May 2016 were included in this review.

For those interested in this topic, here is some of the Children for Health content on nutrition that you can access from this site.

Resources on Nutrition From Children for Health

Free Materials: Storybooks, posters, teaching and training guides have all been co-created with teachers and children involved with the nutrition programme in Mozambique (PCAAN).

PCAAN Basic Guide: Our basic guide for teachers helps the teacher or club leader set up and run a school nutrition programme. It includes activities linked to eight nutrition messages and these messages form the backbone of the curriculum.

Poster: Our two sided PCAAN poster was co-created by Children for Health and teachers in Mozambique. The front shows how children are working to improve nutrition relation habits and activities by way of a school health club and the school. One side of the poster depicts an unhealthy community where people are showing habits that contribute to under-nutrition. The other side of the poster shows a healthy community! The poster depicts the many ways in which the programme is supported’ for example by training, monitoring and government strategy and approval. The back of the poster sets out some background on the programme plus the eight core messages that structure the curriculum for the school health clubs nutrition programme.

StorybooksFront Cover of our storybook The Rainbow Garden

    • The Rainbow Garden tells the story of a group of children as they learn the importance of a varied and balanced diet. The teacher at school helps the children to plant a garden full of colourful vegetables they learn that to be strong and healthy they need to eat food of many colours. The rainbow food helps baby Sylvia get well and strong again and gives the children a surprising way to find a lovely birthday present for Mama Ruth. This storybook is aimed at children aged 9-14 and for children of this age to read to younger children. In the back of the storybook there are lots of questions and fun activities for teachers and older children to use.
    • The Puzzle tells the story of two children, Mika and Christina going on a journey to find a series of puzzle cards hidden around their village. They work out the answers to the puzzles find out how to stay healthy and avoid the germs that make people sick. They learn how to make a tippy tap to wash their hands and other ways to beat the germs. This storybook is aimed at children aged 9-14 and for children of this age to read to younger children. In the back of the storybook there are lots of questions and fun activities for teachers and older children to use.
    • How To be Good At Football tells the story of a boy called Mika. Mika loves football and wants to win the match at school but he is feeling too weak and sick. He finds out that small things like nails are very important because they hold big things together and learns that the micronutrients in colourful food help to keep his body strong so that he can play football well. This storybook is aimed at children aged 9-14 and for children of this age to read to younger children. In the back of the storybook there are lots of questions and fun activities for teachers and older children to use
    • Everyone Counts tells the story of the need for sharing food fairly. ZaZa and ZuZu the parrots are angry that the men always eat first and do not remember to leave enough food for the children and for Mama. What can the parrots do to make sure that the children have enough to eat? The story tells of how they find a clever way to to show the family how to use plates and share the food out before eating. This storybook is aimed at children aged 9-14 and for children of this age to read to younger children. In the back of the storybook there are lots of questions and fun activities for teachers and older children to use.
Two children hold the puppet parrots ZuZu and ZaZa
Children with the Children for Health parrots – ZuZu and ZaZa

ZuZu and ZaZa

Children for Health have two parrot puppet mascots called ZuZu and ZaZa. There are a pair of these parrots in each of the schools piloting the school nutrition programme in Mozambique. The ‘Rainbow’ is a metaphor used throughout this programme and this is further reinforced by the parrots in primary colours.

Other Resources

  1. Nutrition in Developing Countries: This book covers the essential facts about nutrients, nutrient needs, foods, and meals. It explains how nutrition workers can help families with nutrition problems, how to treat malnourished children, and how nutrition workers can work in communities and in schools. The book is illustrated, with many new drawings, as well as some from the old edition of the book. This new edition brings the subject to a slightly more advanced level, and includes new ideas on working in and with communities, and about nutrition education. It includes many ideas for exercises for training nutrition workers. We are very very pleased to be listed as number one the resources section in this, the third edition!
  2. How to Integrate Children’s participation in Health and Nutrition programming: This has been developed for Save the Children’s Health and Nutrition staff and partners so they can better support the meaningful participation of children and young people in health and nutrition programmes. It focuses on opportunities for children’s involvement in maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition, especially at the community and primary healthcare levels. The following questions are addressed:
    • What is children’s participation?
    • Why is children’s participation important?
    • How do you make children’s participation meaningful?

    The guide then looks at how to involve children in health and nutrition programming. In particular it focuses on:

    • working with children to understand local childhoods
    • involving children in analysing rights
    • involving children in the design of health and nutrition programmes
    • involving children in implementing health and nutrition programmes
    • involving children in monitoring and evaluation
    • involving children in external influencing, advocacy and accountability