Prevalence and correlates of prenatal vitamin A deficiency in rural Sidama, Southern Ethiopia

Prevalence and correlates of prenatal vitamin A deficiency in rural Sidama, Southern Ethiopia

Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient required for the normal functioning of the vision system, immunity, epithelial integrity, cellular differentiation, growth and development, and possibly reproduction. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines vitamin A deficiency (VAD) as tissue concentrations of vitamin A (VA) low enough to have adverse health consequences, even if there is no evidence of clinical deficiency.

The objective of this study is to assess the prevalence and potential risk factors of prenatal VAD in Sidama zone, Southern Ethiopia, where an earlier survey reported seriously high (27%) prevalence of VAD. The study explores wide range of potential risk factors, including maternal literacy level, income, age, gestational age, household wealth index, agro-ecological zone, zinc deficiency (ZD), parity, birth interval, history of breastfeeding, level of C-reactive protein (CRP), dietary diversity (DD), type of staple food, distance from the nearby health facility, antenatal care (ANC), and history of nutrition education during pregnancy.

The study finds that:

  • advanced gestational age is negatively associated with serum retinol level, indicating that there is a need for developing trimester-specific cut-off points for defining prenatal VAD
  • elevated CRP, advanced age, inferior maternal socioeconomic status, dependence on poorly-diversified and plant source based diets, zinc deficiency, and history of too close and too many births are pertinent risk factors of VAD
  • ANC and nutrition education are not potent enough in reducing the burden of VAD

The study recommends that VAD be combated through improving diet diversity and expansion of family-planning services in the area. Socioeconomic empowerment of women would also have positive contribution. Nutritional care should be integrated into maternity services.

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