Micronutrient deficiencies in maternity and child health: a review of environmental and social context and implications for Malawi

Natalie Dickinson, Gordon Macpherson, Andrew S. Hursthouse, John Atkinson

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18 Citations (Scopus)


It is well documented that micronutrient malnutrition is of increasing concern in the developing world, resulting in poor health and high rates of mortality and morbidity. During pregnancy, deficiency of iron and zinc can produce cognitive and growth impairment of the foetus, which may continue into infancy. Iron and zinc are essential micronutrients for both plant growth and human nutrition. Despite significant work in the areas of soil fertility, crop biofortification and dietary interventions, the problems of micronutrient deficiencies persist in Africa. There is a need to examine why communities have not embraced intervention strategies which may offer health benefits. Bottom-up, interdisciplinary approaches are required to effectively study the relationships between local communities and their environment, and to assess the impact their behaviour has on the cycling of micronutrients within the soil-plant-human system. From a detailed consideration of diverse influencing factors, a methodological model is suggested for studying the barriers to improving micronutrient uptake within rural communities. It combines environmental understanding with health and social factors, emphasising the need for and potential benefits of understanding and coherence in true interdisciplinary working.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-272
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number2
Early online date24 Oct 2008
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • Micronutrients
  • Malnutrition
  • Geophagy
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Maternity
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Soil-plant-human transfer

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