Consumer testing of the preliminary paediatric food- based dietary guidelines, among English- and Afrikaans-speaking mothers, for healthy children aged 1 – 7 years in the city of Cape Town, South Africa
PROJECT AIM The aim of this qualitative cross-sectional descriptive study was to test the comprehensibility of the preliminary Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for healthy children aged 1-7 years. Objectives included assessing exposure to Food-Based Dietary Guidelines, assessing comprehension of the proposed Paediatric Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (perceptions, interpretation and understanding of terminology, concepts and descriptions), and assessing whether the guidelines can be used in meal planning. METHOD The proposed study was submitted to the Committee for Human Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, and was subsequently approved. Focus group discussions were used to collect data. The discussions were facilitated by the investigator in either English or Afrikaans, according to a predetermined discussion guideline. Mothers with children aged 1-7 years old voluntarily participated in the study. With permission from the Department of Education, mothers were contacted via randomly chosen pre-primary schools, crèches and playgroups. Focus groups were formed on the basis of language and socio-economic status (SES), using randomly selected suburbs to represent lower, middle and upper SES groups. Sixteen focus groups were conducted: 2 pilot groups, 1 English and 1 Afrikaans lower SES, 3 English and 3 Afrikaans middle SES groups, and 3 English and 3 Afrikaans upper SES groups. RESULTS A total of 76 mothers participated in the study. On the whole, the mothers understood the proposed Paediatric Food-Based Dietary Guidelines as intended by the Paediatric Working Group. The rationale behind the guidelines was not always known, but grasped once explained. No substantial differences were found between English and Afrikaans data. Differences were found between SES groups, with the highly educated upper SES groups having a better understanding of the nutritional information than the other groups. In all groups, mothers suggested that slight changes be made to the wording of the guidelines, and that examples and additional information be given along with each of the guidelines. Overall they agreed that the proposed guidelines might prove to be useful. CONCLUSION The proposed Paediatric Food-Based Dietary Guidelines were well received by the mothers in the focus groups. The target population which would most benefit from these guidelines would be the less educated, lower SES groups, as more highly educated mothers seem to already have greater exposure to nutritional information. This study shows that once the guidelines have been modified, they may be used as a comprehensive guide for nutritional education.