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Master’s thesis: Healthcare workers perceptions on dietary counselling in Kenya

Mary Muraguri investigated the role of dietary counselling in reducing malnutrition in women of reproductive age and young children in Kenya.

Globally, the prevalence of malnutrition is constantly increasing. Providing dietary counselling to vulnerable groups including women of reproductive age and young children aids in preventing malnutrition. Dietary counselling is vital to improving nutritional status of both women and young children. The photographic food atlas would be a beneficial additional tool during provision of dietary counselling to women of reproductive age and young children. This thesis aimed to understand the role of dietary counselling in reducing malnutrition in women of reproductive age (15-49 years) and young children aged 6-23 months in Kenya. 

Importance of dietary counselling

The thesis results establish that majority of women attending public owned healthcare facilities in Nairobi are either poorly educated or lack sufficient knowledge on nutrition issues. This intensifies the importance of offering dietary information to all women of reproductive age. Dietary counselling improves mothers’ knowledge about different food groups, and different methods of mixing these food groups to ensure healthy diets.

Proper nutrition is linked to brain formation, low susceptibility to diseases, reduced hospital visits, reduced health costs and a healthy society. Poor nutrition is linked to delayed milestones, low Intelligence Quotient, impaired walking in children and poor immunity. Dietary counselling promotes good dietary habits which result in proper growth and development of young children. Information on food groups offered during dietary counselling is based on the Kenyan Ministry of Health recommendations. Women are counselled on the importance of utilizing locally available and affordable foods to enhance their nutritional status.

The application of a photographic food atlas as an additional reference and teaching material in dietary counselling of women of reproductive age and young children is advantageous in several ways. The use of pictures is important in enhancing memory, retaining information and increasing understanding in mothers receiving dietary counselling. Food atlases are also practical in saving time, reducing language barriers and may be used in measuring food portions consumed by individuals suffering from or at risk of malnutrition-related problems including diabetics.

Improving counselling practice

Constraints in availability of resources including time, space, staff and nutrition supplements affect the quality of dietary counselling and the amount of information provided during counselling. The mother’s attitude, cultural beliefs and traditions, poverty, alcoholism and psychological issues create challenges in offering dietary counselling.

Training of health workers and community health workers on basic nutrition, offering incentives to women, ensuring follow up of women and children in the community, providing vital resources to public healthcare facilities and establishing support groups for women and young children may all boost the uptake and provision of dietary counselling.


The Master’s thesis was completed by Mary Muraguri during the year 2021, at the Kahawa West public Health Center in Nairobi County, Kenya. A thematic analysis approach was applied in this study.

Read Mugaguri's thesis "Healthcare Workers’ Perceptions on Dietary Counselling and the Inclusion of a Food Atlas in Dietary Counselling".

Further information:

Mary Muraguri
Global Health and Crisis Management