Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Food variety, socioeconomic status and nutritional status in urban and rural areas in Koutiala (Mali)

Anne Hatløya1 c1, Jesper Hallunda2, Modibo M Diarraa3 and Arne Oshauga4

a1 Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science, Box 2947 Tøyen, N-0608 Oslo, Norway:

a2 Research Department of Human Nutrition, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, 1958 Fredriksberg C, Denmark:

a3 Institut National de Recherche en Santé Publique, Bamako Box 1046, Mali:

a4 Institute for Nutrition Research, University of Oslo 0316, Oslo, Norway


Objective: The purpose of this study was to analyse the associations between the food variety score (FVS), dietary diversity score (DDS) and nutritional status of children, and to assess the associations between FVS, DDS and socioeconomic status (SES) on a household level. The study also assessed urban and rural differences in FVS and DDS.

Design: Cross-sectional studies in 1994/95, including a simplified food frequency questionnaire on food items used in the household the previous day. A socioeconomic score was generated, based on possessions in the households. Weight and height were measured for all children aged 6–59 months in the households, and anthropometric indices were generated.

Subjects and setting: Three hundred and twenty-nine urban and 488 rural households with 526 urban and 1789 rural children aged 6–59 months in Koutiala County, Sikasso Region, Mali.

Results: Children from urban households with a low FVS or DDS had a doubled risk (OR>2) for being stunted and underweight. Those relations were not found in the rural area. There was an association between SES and both FVS and DDS on the household level in both areas. The FVS and DDS in urban households with the lowest SES were higher than the FVS and DDS among the rural households with the highest SES.

Conclusions: Food variety and dietary diversity seem to be associated with nutritional status (weight/age and height/age) of children in heterogeneous communities, as our data from urban areas showed. In rural areas, however, this association could not be shown. Socioeconomic factors seem to be important determinants for FVS and DDS both in urban and rural areas. FVS and DDS are useful variables in assessing the nutritional situation of households, particular in urban areas.

(Online publication January 27 1999)

(Accepted August 04 1999)


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† Conducted the survey when employed at the Institute for Nutrition Research, University of Oslo.