Cultural aspects of infant undernutrition among the Lujere people of Papua New Guinea : a nursing perspective : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (Social Sciences)

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Massey University
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A field study of five months has been undertaken to determine the causal or predisposing factors related to the prevalence of undernutrition in the Lujere infants and children of Papua New Guinea. Strategies used in the field study include: • visiting eight venues and weighing infants from fifteen villages at regular intervals, variation in the weighing schedule occurred and are discussed • participant observations which incorporated unstructured interviews and ethnographic recordings. • the maintenance of a daily journal, in which all activities and cultural interactions related to the study were noted, has been used as a basis for the descriptive sections of the field study. An anthropological and a nursing perspective has been combined into a "transcultural" nursing approach. The results obtained through these field work strategies show: of 477 infants regularly weighed 27.25% of the infants were seen as well nourished and 72.75% suffered from undernutrition in varying degrees. 19.25% of the undernourished infants were deemed to suffer from severe undernutrition. Causal factors for the high percentage of undernutrition were seen to be related to: • insufficiencies in subsistence patterns mainly due to climatic factors which govern when hunting, gathering, fishing and gardening activities take Place. • the well developed cultural patterns which determined what portion of the available foods were given to infants and children, and when it was culturally acceptable for them to be given • incongruity in relation to health care delivery between the care givers and receivers. The dominant features here were the two different philosophies of causality and treatment of disease. This incongruity generally tended to prolong the duration of undernutrition experienced by Lujere infants and children. These factors need urgent attention and it is recommended that, together with health care givers, the Lujere people need to become aware of and encouraged to use community self care. This self care should amalgamate salient aspects of their own care ideas with prominent aspects of the western health care system.
Malnutrition in children, Papua New Guinea