Northwestern University

Mon 3:00 PM

Barbara Piperata, Ohio State University: Biocultural Dimensions of Food Insecurity in Nicaragua: Implications for maternal-child health

When: Monday, March 12, 2018
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 1810 Hinman Avenue, 104, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Nancy Hickey   847.467.1507

Group: Anthropology Department

Institute For Policy Research
Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities
Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


An estimated 815 million people are food insecure (FAO 2017) and over a billion face water shortages due to physical scarcity or a lack of infrastructure (UN 2007). These daunting figures make clear that a large portion of the global population lives under conditions of chronic resource insecurity and a growing body of literature points to resource scarcity as an important social determinant of physical and mental health. Beginning in 2012, I have been working with a multi-disciplinary, international team of researchers to investigate the ways in which resource scarcity affects the health of women and children in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.
In this talk I will present the results of our mixed-methods research on the relationship between food insecurity and maternal mental health and the potential role of social support as a moderator of this relationship. To explore this topic, we administered a survey that included data on perceived food security (ELCSA instrument) and mental distress (SRQ-20), as well as access to three types of social support (social network, spousal and parental) to a population-based sample of mothers (n=434) living in León, Nicaragua. These data were complemented by six focus group discussions (n=45 mothers) that explored cross-cultural dimensions of food insecurity (e.g., worry, food quality, experiences managing inadequate food supplies) and local cultural models of motherhood. As expected, we found a positive relationship between the level of food insecurity and maternal mental distress. Somewhat unexpected, was the limited role social support had in moderating this relationship. I draw on the ethnographic data, particularly the stigma associated with food insecurity and local social norms and gender dynamics to help explain these findings. I will end by briefly introducing some preliminary results of our summer research which utilized the ecocultural theory of child development to understand enteric pathogen exposure and diarrhea disease among children in a context of food and water insecurity.

Co-sponsored by Latin American and Caribbean Studies,Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research and the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities

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