A community-based integrated nutrition research programme to alleviate poverty: Baseline survey

W. H. Oldewage-Theron, E. G. Dicks, C. E. Napier, R. Rutengwe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background. The United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) has indicated that urban poverty is primarily found in squatter settlements. At present, 13.5% of all South African households live in informal settlements. The main hypothesis for this empirical study was that micromechanisms would not negatively influence food, nutrition and health of residents in an informal settlement in the Vaal Triangle, South Africa. This hypothesis was tested empirically against the UNICEF framework of the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition. The purpose of this study was to establish a situation analysis of children and women before designing any intervention. Objectives. The objectives covered in this paper include Phases I and II of the project, namely planning of the project and determining the demographic and health profile of the sample as part of a situation analysis. Study design. This is a community participatory project. After a strategic participatory planning workshop with stakeholders, a plan of operation document, guiding all field undertakings, was drawn up (Phase 1), followed by a cross-sectional baseline survey (Phase II), situation analysis (Phase III), and implementation of community-based intervention studies (Phase IV). Impact measurement will follow in Phase V. Methods. After the planning meeting and obtaining consent, a pretested, structured demographic and health questionnaire was used to obtain data from 357 randomly selected households in an informal settlement. Data were statistically analysed for means and standard deviations. Results. The findings of the workshop evaluation indicated that 100% of the participants (n=34) agreed that a need existed for this project, 74% (n=24) understood the relevance, and 64% (n=22) realized the importance for sustainable community development. In the baseline survey, 89% of the respondents lived in zinc shacks with two rooms or less (32.2%), three or four rooms (41.5%) or four rooms or more (26.3%). The household size was six people or more (33%), five people (18.5%), four people (21.3%) and three people or less (27.2%). The unemployment rate was 94.2% for respondents and 80.1% for their partners. The majority of households (42.6%) had a monthly income of <R500 (US$71). The major health problems observed were chronic coughing (42%) and headaches (50.4%). Death of a child under 5 years of age was reported by 27.7% of respondents, of which 34.8% were stillborn, over the previous 5 years. Conclusions. These findings confirmed that poverty and household food insecurity were major problems. As such, these results form the basis for planning and implementing sustainable community-based intervention projects to promote public health nutrition in the Vaal Triangle, South Africa. It is, however, important to ensure community participation during all phases of the project to ensure sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-320
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Household food security
  • Informal settlements
  • Integrated nutrition research project
  • Malnutrition
  • Participatory planning
  • Poverty
  • Sociodemographic


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