Conclusions and Recommendations

In preschoolers, malnutrition was a common problem. Children had a poor quality diet. A very propertion of the children did not consume the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. The little fruit they consumed came from friut juices and their vegetable consumption was primarily from french fries. The vegetables that contain vitamins A and C were not consumed as well as the green leafy and cruciferous(broccoli, cauliflower) being extremely low. High fat foods were common in the diet as were foods high in refined sugar such as high sugar cereals, kool-aid, and soft drinks.

Culture-specific community-based programs to promote dietary patterns, including a higher consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, is needed to combat the high rate of obesity in these children. The target of these programs are the children themselves, the primary caretakers, the individuals who purchase and prepare the food in home and at school, as well as the farmers and the grocery stores. Higher levels of physical activity should accompany the dietary recommendations to promote a healtier preschooler.

There is still the existance of hunger in children; in fact about 22% of the preschoolers have been exposed to it. More than 90% of the respondents are cautious about running out of food in the near future. It is of extreme importance that these disadvantaged groups be monitored to secure sufficient and healthy diets.

The WIC and the Food Stamp assistance programs will likely have a positive impact on the health and especially the nutrition of these low income children in the Hartford area. An example of the importance of these programs is seen when looking at children participating in the WIC program versus children not the program. WIC children tended to show less malnutrition signs(i.e., low weight-for-age, stunting, or wasting) than those children not in the program.

The feeding practices of infants in the area are below optimal level. Only about 40% of the women breast-fed their infants. Due to the social pressures, children tended to be introduced to foods other than breast milk and/or formula and much earlier ages than is recommended. Culturally and socially sensitive campaigns must be adopted to promote breast-feeding as well as proper timing of weaning specific foods. 'Lactancia, Herencia y Orgullo' a breast-feeding program developed by the Hispanic Health Council is attacking the problem directly.

Although about 87% of the caretakers rated their children as having good to excellent health many of the children suffered from malnutrition similar to children in minority populations living in the innner-city. Some the problems seen in the children are born preterm(21%),low birth weight(22%), asthma(35%), with over 24% having to hospitalized for the asthma problem. Common sicknesses, such as colds, ear infections, and diarrhea, were very common. It will be important to examine the long-term effect of these problems and the effect of nutrition on them.

This needs assessment was carried out by a strong intra-agency and inter-agency collaboration led by the University of Connecticut and the Hispanic Health Council. This represents a strong first step towards understanding and eventually solving the problem of malnutrition seen in infants and toddlers.