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close this bookCulture, Environment, and Food to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1997, 208 pages)
close this folderPart IV. Understanding Vitamin A deficieny in the community
close this folder9. The contexts of culture, environment, and food
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentOverall performance of the protocol
View the documentKeys to finding local community food sources to prevent Vitamin A deficiency: What foods are available and how much vitamin a do they contain?
View the documentKeys to understanding consumption patterns of vulnerable groups
View the documentKeys to beliefs and perceptions about food
View the documentKeys to cultural, ecological and socioeconomic factors that constrain consumption of Vitamin A-rich food and prevention of deficiency
View the documentKeys to explanations and understandings of Vitamin A deficiency symptoms
View the documentLooking to the next steps: From ethnography to intervention design


The root of the problem of vitamin A deficiency is lack of sufficient vitamin A in community food supplies. While all members of families in communities where vitamin A is limited are potentially at risk of deficiency, infants, young children, pregnant, and lactating women are the most vulnerable. In order to understand how food systems can be supported to ensure adequate intake for all the population, the environmental and sociocultural mechanisms through which food is provided must also be understood. This understanding begins with answers to a set of basic questions: what vitamin A-containing foods are available? What are the nutrient levels in these foods? How much is consumed by the individuals who are vulnerable to deficiency? Why are these foods selected or not used? How do people identify and treat symptoms of vitamin A deficiency? The answers to these questions are the product of determinants that reside in the physical and social environment, broadly defined, and in culture. Answering these questions at the local level is a necessary step in the development of interventions aimed at remedial actions and prevention of vitamin A deficiency.

In the sections that follow, we begin with some comments about the overall performance of the protocol as a field tool. We then review findings from the studies in relation to the "key questions" to which the protocol is directed. This is not intended to be a definitive analysis of the dietary, environmental, and cultural features of the five sites. The purpose is to summarize the types of information that are produced through the application of the procedures.