The Influence of Environment and Heredity on Health Status of Primary School Pupils in Nigeria

The Influence of Environment and Heredity on Health Status of Primary School Pupils in Nigeria


The study investigated the influence of environment and heredity on health status of primary school pupils in Jos north Local Government Area, Plateau state. Related literature were reviewed on the area by the study, descriptive survey research design method was used. The populace of the study comprised all primary schools in Jos north Local Government Area Plateau state; two hundred respondents were randomly selected from five schools in Jos north Local Government Area. The instrument used for the study was a structured questionnaire which was validated and tested for reliability. The test retest method was used and the coefficient of the reliability was 0.87.

Descriptive statistics of simple percentage and inferential statistics of chi-square (X2) was used to analyze the data collected from the respondents at 0.05 alpha level of significance.

The result revealed that significant difference exists between the influence of environment and heredity on health status of primary school pupil in Jos north Local Government Area Plateau State. That Environment influences the health status of primary school pupils, that Heredity influences the health status of primary school pupils, that Environment influences the body weight of primary school pupils, that Heredity influences the intelligence level of primary school pupils, that Heredity influences the skin colour of primary school pupils, that Heredity influences the height of primary school pupils. The research recommended among others that the federal government should employ qualified and trained teachers with standard qualification that will educate the primary school pupils on the effect of bad and dirty environment, Health educators, doctors and counselors should educate and inform couples about the effect of marrying individuals with diseased genotype and how to reduce the cases of transferring diseases such as sickle cell anemia to their unborn children, Health expert, doctors and counselors should advise mothers (women generally) on the benefit of taking balance diet and good nutrition before delivery and the child should be given adequate proportion of nutrient that will influence their health status positively, federal government should employ trained and qualified teachers with standard qualification that will teach and educate student, so that there intelligence level can be enhanced, both student who have high level of intelligence quotient and low intelligence quotient who needs special education, health expert and educators should establish a cordial relationship with the community and local government area by organizing seminar and symposia about the influence of heredity on skin colour of children and how it can be reduce to its minimum, health services expert should educate couples and families on information about the influence of heredity on the height of their children.



1.1 Background of the study

Children are the future of a country and precious resources of sustainable development of the human society. Improving nutrition and health status of children is the basis for realization of the comprehensive development and the transformation of any country. Development during the early childhood, especially from fetus to two-year-old (the first 1,000 days since life starts), is crucial in determining the nutrition and health status in the whole life course. Malnutrition during infancy and toddler stage can lead to irreversible delay in growth and cognitive development that negatively affects intelligence potentials, impairs learning abilities and productivity in the later life, and increases the risks of obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases during adulthood. Child health status is also closely related to changes in mortality rate. According to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), 35% of global children in primary school’ mortality can be attributable to malnutrition (WHO, 2005).

In its report the UN, (2005) noted that child malnutrition and its causes are enormous, and a myriad of social development policies have been introduced as a means of reducing its prevalence, however the role of women’s social status in the outcome of their children’s nutrition health has not received the level of attention it deserves. “People who live in poverty see that their children have little access to suitable health and education services or in many cases to an adequate supply of food” (UN, 2005). According to the UN (2005), political interest in nutrition has been further heightened by concern that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are unlikely to be achieved by the target date of 2015 and growing recognition that adequate nutrition is a crucial input to help get five out of the eight Goals back on track.

It has been estimated by the WHO (2005) that for the year 2004, stunting, severe wasting, and foetal growth restriction, were responsible for 2.2 million deaths of children in primary school. The WHO (2005) further noted that, deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc were estimated to be responsible for 0.6 million and 0.4 million deaths, respectively; and suboptimum breastfeeding for 1.4 million deaths. In an analysis that accounted for co-exposure of these nutrition-related factors, it was estimated that they were together responsible for about 35% of child deaths and 11% of the total global disease burden (WHO, 2005).

It has been observed by Menon, Ruel, & Morris, (2000) that, in terms of under-fives mortality rates, the most immediate needs are in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar, Nigeria, Yemen, and Burma. According to UNICEF (2007), there is little difference in underweight prevalence between girls and boys but children in rural areas are twice as likely to be underweight as children in urban areas. It has been argued that, while the number underweight is decreasing globally, in areas such as Eastern and Southern Africa and conflict regions of the Middle East and North Africa, the number underweight are rising (Menon, Ruel, & Morris, 2000).

In Nigeria, according to CBS et al., (2004) child mortality rates and malnutrition remain high in spite of the government’s commitment to create an enabling environment for the provision of quality health care and reduction of mortality and malnutrition levels. Children in primary school’ mortality rates remain above 100 per 1,000 live births while infant mortality rates are well above 60. In addition, about 30% of under-five children suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunted), almost 6% are severely malnourished (wasted), while 20% are underweight. The prevalence of these problems is most critical in rural areas, drought stricken areas, and among poor households (CBS et al., 2004).

Efforts to reduce child mortality rates and malnutrition continue to be challenged by the HIV/AIDS scourge that has led to increased number of orphaned children who are at increased risk of malnutrition. Nutrition deficiencies contribute to high rates of disability, illness and death (CBS, MOH and ORC. Macro 2004). They also affect the long term physical growth and development of children, and may lead to high levels of chronic illness and disability in adult life. In addition, high rates of malnutrition jeopardize future economic growth by reducing the intellectual and physical potential of the entire population. In its efforts to ensure health for all Nigerians, the Ministry of Health’s strategic plan (1999-2004) aimed among other targets at: reducing malnutrition among under-five year olds by 30%; reducing the proportion of under-fives morbidity and mortality rates attributable to key childhood diseases and malnutrition from 70 to 40 percent and eliminate vitamin A deficiency in children in primary school (CBS, MOH and ORC. Macro, 2004).

Fedorov and Sahn, (2005) argued that the achievement of these targets however, continues to be undermined by lack of progress in key determinants of children malnutrition, morbidity and mortality. There are a wide range of factors that determine the health status of children. These can broadly be classified into child characteristics including age and gender of the child, household characteristics, particularly parental characteristics, and community variables. However, dietary intake and nutrition status are also important determinants of children’s health status (Fedorov and Sahn, 2005). These are in turn influenced by underling determinants such as food security and community infrastructure such as sanitation, access to water and local market conditions. Other factors which have been investigated in the literature include prices of related health inputs, available household resources such as income, time and household public goods (Fedorov and Sahn, 2005).

This research study assessed the factors that influence health status of children in primary school in Jos North, Plateau state. This was through the examination of sociodemographic characteristics caregivers, socio-economic factors of households with children in primary school, immunization against childhood diseases and maternal health background.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Child health status is directly related to the realization of Goal 1 (halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and the proportion of underweight children in primary school of age years years) and Goal 4 (reduce under-fives mortality rate) of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and closely related to economic and social development. Adopting active preventive measures will produce great economic and social benefits (Chunming, 2009). Nevertheless, Nigeria is one of the 42 countries that account for 90% of all under-fives deaths in the world. Findings of the 2009 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) reveal that one in every nine children born dies before age five, mainly of acute respiratory infection, diarrhoea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition (KNBS, 2009).

According to reports from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development (NCAPD) in Nigeria, the infant mortality rate increased from about 60 per 1,000 in 1990 to 74 in 1998 and 77 in 2003, while under-fives mortality continued to increase from about 90 per 1,000 in 1990 to 112 in 1998 and 115 in 2003. This is a reversal in trend after global initiatives to improve child health caused a decline in infant and child mortality in Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s (NCAPD, 2011). However, the major challenge in reduction of child mortality is the continued increase in mortality rates since the 1990s in all regions of the country (KNBS, 2009).

Furthermore, recent rapid increases in prices of staple foods are likely to exacerbate the problem among the most vulnerable in situations governed by woefully inadequate social safety nets (Horton, Alderman, & Rivera, 2008). According to Horton et al., high levels of child malnutrition, stalled progress towards health-related MDGs, the rise of chronic diseases driving households below the poverty line, and the need for prevention to address causes outside the health sector have forced a hard look at the reasons for past failures and stimulated a search for new pathways to health equity and social justice (Horton, Alderman, & Rivera, 2008).

According to the WHO (2008), due to its multi-sectoral nature, nutrition could be an appropriate entry point for these new pathways. This calls for more attention to be paid to addressing the structural causes of malnutrition and ill-health together with the need to take urgent action to stem the rise in child malnutrition have led to questions being raised as to what works and why in relation to nutrition programming. Whilst a consensus has recently been reached on available interventions with proven effectiveness to reduce stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and child deaths in the short term, there is no such consensus on how best to address the deeper causes of malnutrition for which there are no magic technological bullets WHO (2008). These deeper causes govern the amount, control and use of human, economic and organizational resources that are available to households and communities. This study therefore aimed at establishing the environmental and heredity factors influencing health status of children in primary school in Jos North, Plateau state.


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