Maternal knowledge and environmental factors associated with risk of diarrhea in Israeli Bedouin children

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Diarrhea is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality among children in developing countries. As it is due to multiple causative agents including viruses, bacteria and parasites, biological interventions are not currently available to markedly reduce incidence and severity. We examined maternal knowledge and reported behavior during diarrheal episodes, as well as environmental factors to determine their association with diarrhea. The children and mothers were from a Bedouin township in southern Israel, which has developed preventive and curative health care facilities. The Bedouin population in Israel is in transition from a nomadic to a settled life style. While almost all mothers exhibited good knowledge regarding food storage and prevention of diarrhea episodes in the children, the rate of illness in the children remained relatively high (two episodes per child year of observation). In a multivariate analysis, cessation of breastfeeding during diarrhea, child sleeping with siblings and lack knowledge about risk factors, were the major risk factors for illness with odds ratios (OR): 4.6, p = 0.02, 5.6, p = 0.03 and 1.7, p = 0.06, respectively. These data indicate that even in this population with free access to preventive medical care, greater efforts should be made to educate mothers regarding risk factor for diarrheal disease identification and the benefits of maintaining breastfeeding during diarrhea episodes.

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