Longitudinal assessments of child growth: A six-year follow-up of a cluster-randomized maternal education trial

Atukunda P, Ngari M, Chen X, Westerberg AC, Iversen PO, Muhoozi G
Clin Nutr. 2021;40

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BACKGROUND & AIMS: Child growth impairments are rampant in sub-Saharan Africa. To combat this important health problem, long-term follow-up studies are needed to examine possible benefits and sustainability of various interventions designed to correct inadequate child growth. Our aim was to perform a follow-up study of children aged 60-72 months whose mothers participated in a two-armed cluster-randomized education intervention trial lasting 6 months in rural Uganda when their children were 6-8 months old with data collection at 20-24 and at 36 months. The education focused on nutrition, hygiene, and child stimulation. METHODS: We measured growth using anthropometry converted to z-scores according to WHO guidelines. We also included assessments of body composition using bioimpedance. We used multilevel mixed effect linear regression models with maximum likelihood method, unstructured variance-covariance structure, and the cluster as a random effect component to compare data from the intervention (receiving the education and routine health care) with the control group (receiving only routine health care). RESULTS: Of the 511 children included in the original trial, data from 166/263 (63%) and 141/248 (57%) of the children in the intervention and control group, respectively, were available for the current follow-up study. We found no significant differences in any anthropometrical z-score between the two study groups at child age of 60-72 months, except that children in the intervention group had lower (P = 0.006) weight-for-height z-score than the controls. There were no significant differences in the trajectories of z-scores or height growth velocity (cm/year) from baseline (start of original trial) to child age of 60-72 months. Neither did we detect any significant difference between the intervention and control group regarding body composition (fat mass, fat free mass, and total body water) at child age 60-72 months. Separate gender analyses had no significant impact on any of the growth or body composition findings. CONCLUSION: In this long-term study of children participating in a randomized maternal education trial, we found no significant impact of the intervention on anthropometrical z-scores, height growth velocity or body composition. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinical Trials (clinical trials.gov) ClinicalTrials.gov ID NCT02098031.