Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), environmental enteropathy, nutrition, and early child development: making the links

FM, Ngure; BM, Reid; JH, Humphrey; MN, Mbuya; G, Pelto; RJ, Stoltzfus
There is scarce research and programmatic evidence on the effect of poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions of the physical environment on early child cognitive, sensorimotor, and socioemotional development. Furthermore, many common WASH interventions are not specifically designed to protect babies in the first 3 years of life, when gut health and linear growth are established. We review evidence linking WASH, anemia, and child growth, and highlight pathways through which WASH may affect early child development, primarily through inflammation, stunting, and anemia. Environmental enteropathy, a prevalent subclinical condition of the gut, may be a key mediating pathway linking poor hygiene to developmental deficits. Current early child development research and programs lack evidence-based interventions to provide a clean play and infant feeding environment in addition to established priorities of nutrition, stimulation, and child protection. Solutions to this problem will require appropriate behavior change and technologies that are adapted to the social and physical context and conducive to infant play and socialization. We propose the concept of baby WASH as an additional component of early childhood development programs.
Research areas:
Year:
2014
Type of Publication:
Article
Journal:
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Volume:
1308
Pages:
118-28
Month:
January
DOI:
10.1111/nyas.12330
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The Zvitambo Institute for Maternal and Child Health Research is a multidisciplinary Zimbabwean organization that has developed and attracted expertise in various areas of biomedical and applied research and programming in the areas of maternal health, child health and growth, immunology, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, food security and livelihoods, WASH and counseling

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