How Eggs Can Help Kids Grow Up Healthier In Honduras

Colombian scientist Ana Palacios is working on a clinical trial with a community in Honduras to find out whether giving eggs to kids between the age of 6-24 months will help them in terms of growth, food security, and dietary diversity.

Palacios, who is a medical doctor and an assistant Professor at the Jiann Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University, says that her research is focused in addressing disparities in access to nutrition, health, and education in under-served populations.

“My heart, of course is in Latin American populations, and I have a community-based trial in Honduras that is assessing the effectiveness of an egg intervention,” she says, adding that this community-based participatory research project is covering about 600 young children from more than 30 rural under-served communities in the Honduras Highlands.

Some evidence has shown that eggs can improve linear growth in some populations of Latin America,” she says, “We are passionate in that this will provide a replicable, inexpensive, scalable and sustainable alternative to improve young children’s nutrition, dietary diversity, food insecurity, economic development and overall reduce disparities.”

Palacios hopes the study will provide a solution that can be used in a wide variety of contexts in under-served rural areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and other regions around the globe.

“A key aspect to sustainability and change is involving and empowering the community in the whole process… I cannot go to a community in Honduras and tell them how to feed or care for their kids,” she says, adding that what she can do is listen to the community, guide them in identifying opportunities, empower them, and develop capacity in their own terms, so they thrive.

“I can translate those needs into science, and be the ambassador between science, funders, and communities and individuals,” she says, “We have been really careful in collecting data on the implementation aspect of the project (using implementation science principles), to improve our own processes, and to identify opportunities that us, and other teams can use to develop similar projects in different areas of the Global South!”

Birth of a Passion

Palacios grew up splitting her time between the Colombian capital of Bogotá, Colombia and on a dairy farm near Ubaté, a town north-east of the city.

When she was about 10 years old, Palacios was watching a cow giving birth and it was a complicated birth: at night, in a remote area, without access to healthcare.

“Next thing I realize, my hands were inside the cow, looking to grab the legs of the calf so we could tie it and help the cow give birth… It took us 8 hours and multiple attempts until finally the calf was born,” she says, adding that a lot of questions came to her came after this experience.

“What if it was a woman giving birth in the same circumstances?,” she says, “The nearest town with a hospital was 1 hour from where we were, and only recent medical school graduates would have been able to attend her, and with limited resources.”

This experience added to other realizations of the privilege she grew up with, and the huge disparities in access to education, health, and opportunities of people living in rural areas.

Palacios would go on to study medicine, but 4 months into her first year in a rural community she decided she wanted to learn how to do evidence-based projects that would impact the health and well-being of a lot of people.

“This is when I started working with Dr. Ignacio Zarante at the Instituto de Genetica Humana, of the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, helping establish a surveillance program of birth defects,” she says, adding that she would go on to enrol in a doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin.

“While I was in my doctoral program, I was recruited by an international non-profit organization that aimed to improve the nutritional status of young children in Central and South America. I was the program director of research for 7 years.”

Another Global South scientist with a passion for helping communities tackle health challenges is Roger Figueroa.

Figueroa grew up overweight in Puerto Rico which, in part, drove him to spend years developing a multi-faceted approach to helping low income communities affected by obesity and food insecurity in New York State and Puerto Rico.

You may also like...