Grace Mitton and Randy Page, Health Science
The Liahona Children’s Foundation reaches out to over 800 children in seven different areas of Cambodia, from Battambang to Kampong Cham to Sen Sok. With such a widespread reach and breadth of effect it is imperative that these children are helped with the most effective efforts. During these beginning years of childhood, proper nutrition is vital as proper nourishment affects psychological and intellectual development and overall affects not only a child’s success in life, but their mortality and morbidity in life.
I was awarded the ORCA grant to improve the Liahona Children’s Foundation’s attempts to nourish groups of Cambodian children. Every six months the foundation disburses nutrient dense supplements to children five months to six years old who are stunted and wasted according to the standard World Health Organization Growth Charts. This project was an internship to understand how the program works and to target areas of success and areas that need improvement.
The first step to take was to work with Polly Sheffield (vice president of the Liahona Children’s Foundation) to develop a survey to pass out to participants of the program. This survey was to be given out at screenings that occur at set stations every six months. At these screenings 50 to 200 children with their parents attended where volunteers, training coordinators, and I would weigh and screen these children and record the results. The information would be recorded on the developed survey. The remaining information would be filled out by the parents.
This survey was critical as it entailed gaining information of birthdates, whether they were a member of the LDS church, how they learned about the program, address, etc. I then spent countless hours compiling the data from the three screenings that I chaperoned and from 12 previous screenings. By assigning each child a number and going through massive amounts of information I was able to track each child through the years and study their growth. This data was then assembled into readable information and amassed into a database system. Then z-scores for weight, height, and BMI were calculated. This information was then calculated by program officers back in Utah to look at all the information and to appraise the overall improvement of the children of the program.
As the goal of the program is to be self-sustaining I also worked to train coordinators on how to direct the screenings and how to compile the data and track the children. After preparing with one of the program’s vice presidents, Clayton Avery, we directed presentations and discussions with coordinators on how to properly implement screenings and educated them on the importance of the information. Both Clayton and I were also able to discuss different concerns and issues that the coordinators had seen in the program and possible ways to tackle these problems.
The Liahona Children’s Foundation and I had difficulty with the software system used to compile the data which set back the time to analyze the results of the data. While we can see the physical evidence, seeing children looking healthier and stronger in each new screening, they are still in the midst of working on gaining the results and numerical evidence to see if the nutritional supplements are working.
While I was not able to help analyze the information gained from the screenings as much as I wanted to it gave me time to work on other Liahona Children’s Foundation projects. I was assigned to develop another survey to give to various participants and with the help of a translator was able to ask questions on what participants liked and disliked about the nutritional program and was able to ask questions about deworming. The Liahona Children’s Foundation program is in the middle of developing a deworming program and with these surveys I was able to work with impact evaluation. In addition to this I was able to help with the impact evaluation of an educational program as I helped collect information and research and wrote up a project proposal for the program.
This was a wonderful opportunity to work on ongoing research and projects with the Liahona Children’s Foundation. While there are thousands of children in Cambodia who need the continuing work of this program, I was able to help a portion of those children. With ongoing endeavors malnourishment can be prevented among numbers of children.