Development of children can be influenced by multiple factors, including nutritional status (during pregnancy and in childhood), health, hygiene behaviors, etc.  The effect of these factors on language and motor skills have been evaluated, however, the impact of a coordinated program that includes interventions in all these aspects has not been evaluated. 

Olney and colleagues studied the impact of such a food–assisted multisectoral nutrition program on the language and motor skills of children in Burundi.  Their results are reported in the October 2019 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

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Sixty villages were randomly assigned to one of 4 interventions: control, or inputs at pregnancy to 24 months of age, at pregnancy to 18 months of age, or from 0 to 24 months of age.  The interventions included micronutrient-fortified foods; nutrition, health and hygiene behavior change communication; and health system strengthening activities. 

Impact of the combined program was measured in children that were 4-24 months of age after implementation and at 24-42 months of age after implementation.  Those results were compared to baseline observations in children that were 4 to 42 months of age.

Language, but not motor development, was improved by the multisectoral nutrition program in children from 4 to 24 months of age.  For children between 12 and 24 months of age, the interventions improved both motor and language skills.  The greatest impact on diet, health and nutritional status were observed in children from 12-24 months.  The authors conclude that this form of multisectoral intervention can have small positive impacts on the development of motor and language skills in children.

References: Olney DK, Leroy JL, Bliznashka L, Ruel MT.  A multisectoral food-assisted maternal and child health and nutrition program targeted to women and children in the first 1000 days increases attainment of language and motor milestones among young Burundian children.  The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 149, Issue 10, October 2019, Pages 1833–1842, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz133

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