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Traditional maternal dietary restrictions and infant and young child feeding practices of ethnic groups in Southern Lao PDR: implications for nutrition programs

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-25, 00:13 authored by Blechynden, KD, Gayford, M

Introduction: Nearly half of all children in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) are chronically malnourished as classified by stunting and/or underweight. Traditional dietary behaviours, maternal malnutrition and inadequate infant feeding practices have been identified as underlying causes of malnutrition in ethnic communities in Southern Lao PDR.

Objectives: To investigate dietary behaviours, perceptions of malnutrition and infant and young child care practices of ethnic groups in Southern Laos PDR.

Methods: Ten villages were chosen by convenience sampling, which incorporated the three major ethnic groups. Information was collected about dietary behaviours, food taboos during pregnancy and breastfeeding, perceptions of malnutrition and infant feeding practices. Male and female focus groups, key stakeholder interviews and a village transect were conducted in each village. All data was recorded in English by the researcher and a thematic analysis completed.

Results: Eighteen focus groups and fifteen stakeholder interviews were conducted. The food taboos, dietary practices and perceptions of malnutrition were identified in nine different ethnic sub-groups. Low dietary diversity, lack of exclusive breastfeeding, poor quality complementary foods, low birth spacing and high rates of maternal smoking were identified as factors impacting on infant and maternal nutrition and requiring attention.

Conclusions: There are a number of factors which impact on nutritional status and malnutrition in the ethnic groups in Southern Lao PDR. The presence and high diversity of traditional dietary restrictions and infant feeding practices need to be considered when developing nutrition and infant feeding programs.



School of Health Sciences

Event title

World Public Health Nutrition Conference, Rio, Brazil.

Event Venue

Rio de Janeiro

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified

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