Many Americans have a soft spot for Botswana, developed while reading the best-selling #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. But few have had a chance to do any sleuthing of their own in that African country.
That changed when University of Illinois scientist Karen Chapman-Novakofski acquired a Batswana doctoral student and learned how little data existed about the health and nutrition of that country's elderly.
"In Botswana, which has the highest incidence of AIDS of any African country, the aged are often raising many grandchildren whose parents have died from the disease. So the elderly's good health is very important," she said.
The two traveled to Africa, secured each tribal chief's permission, then set up shop in front of Botswanan post offices on the days the elderly received their pension checks and questioned them about their eating habits.
The results of their detective work have clarified the situation for Botswanan policy makers and were published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The article has also been selected for inclusion in a special issue of that journal dedicated to the problem of world poverty.
"The information that we gathered will support needed changes in the country's nutrition policy. For example, should foods be fortified" And what foods are best to fortify"" said Chapman-Novakofski, a U of I professor of nutrition.
"Because of our research, Sega (her former doctoral student and collaborator Segametsi D. Maruapula, now a professor at Botswana's University of Gabarone) is well positioned to assume leadership in this area," she said.
Elderly Batswana have little variety in their diet, and, of the five major food groups, they receive only enough grain, and not nearly enough milk, fruits, vegetables, and meat. Only 41 percent had eaten meat in the 24-hour period before they were surveyed, the researcher said.
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign