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Mothers in African Study Undereducated on Diarrhea

Ethiopian mothers' beliefs about diarrhea can lead to inappropriate treatment for their children's life-threatening condition. A 20-year-old Johns Hopkins// University undergraduate in Africa concluded the research.

Rishi Mediratta's data – interviews, stool samples and medical records – revealed that a “large proportion” of the mothers in one Ethiopian community did not have even a rudimentary understanding of how best to either prevent diarrheal disease or manage it.

Diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of mortality in developing African nations.

“Many of them withheld food, fluids and breast milk from their children during diarrheal episodes, which is contrary to the accepted guidelines for the management of diarrhea,” said Mediratta, a Johns Hopkins junior from Kalamazoo, Mich. “Mothers may have the misconception that providing fluids to their children can exacerbate the condition. However, rehydrating children is the most effective treatment for children with diarrhea and should be the first treatment administered.”

Mediratta’s research, focusing on how best to educate Ethiopian mothers so that they can prevent – and manage – diarrheal diseases in their children, was funded by a Johns Hopkins Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award. One of 45 PURA winners this academic year, Mediratta, a junior, will present the results of his research at an awards ceremony at Johns Hopkins.

Since 1993, about 40 students a year have received PURA grants of up to $3,000 to conduct original research. Some have published their results in professional journals. The awards, funded through donations from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university’s commitment to undergraduate research.

A public health studies major, Mediratta witnessed the terrible toll that diarrheal diseases take among the East African country’s children while volunteering at a mission in Addis Ababa and at clinics in the small
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