Dr Martha Mwangome



Dr Martha Mwangome, KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya
Host institution: Jimma University, Ethiopia

Supporting breastfeeding for improved growth in malnourished infants


Dr Martha Mwangome

“…[Through my AREF Fellowship I aim to] adopt a South-to-South collaboration model to improve the quality of nutrition science in Africa.”

Novel approaches to assessing body composition and breastfeeding status of acutely malnourished infants aged below 6 months

I am a young woman and an African scientist with a PhD in Nutritional Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). I am currently working as a post-doctoral scientist at the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, Kenya. I have 10 years of experience in public health nutrition research in Africa with a focus on diagnosis, prevention and treatment of undernutrition in early infancy.

World Health Organisation guidelines for treatment of severe acute malnutrition among infants under 6 months focus on inpatient re-establishment of exclusive breastfeeding. Evidence shows that re-establishing exclusive breastfeeding during admission does not result in catch-up growth one month after discharge. However, providing additional home-based breastfeeding support for mothers after discharge might improve retention of exclusive breastfeeding and lead to improved growth. The project will aim to test the efficacy of two measures: breast milk fortifier given during re-lactation in hospital and a package of breastfeeding support given at home after discharge. Weight gain will be the primary endpoint of the trial which will include malnourished infants aged 6 -14 weeks. It is hoped that the results will improve guidelines for severe malnutrition treatment in infants under 6 months.

At Jimma University (Ethiopia), I will work with Professor Tsinuel Girma (Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health) to gain practical experience in the use of various up-to-date methods to assess the body composition of infants. For example, at University College London’s Institute of Child Health, Professor Jonathan Wells (Professor of Anthropology and Paediatric Nutrition) will show me how to analyse urine samples using a sophisticated mass spectrometer and to interpret the outputs. By incorporating these body composition measures in my research design, I expect my future research to have much more interest and impact.


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