To identify salient illness terms and local illness categorizations for use in messaging while promoting a micronutrient powder (MNP) and enhanced young child feeding practices.
Within formative research, methods from cognitive anthropology were used to understand local illness perception. Caregivers were recruited using stratified purposive sampling across 6 geographic areas of 2 states in northern Nigeria, Kebbi and Adamawa. First, free lists (n = 81) were conducted to identify salient young child illness’ terms, determined by Smith’s S statistic. Next, pile sorts (n = 65) revealed local illness categorizations. Pile sort data were analysed using multi-dimensional scaling.
In Adamawa and Kebbi, caregivers perceive other illnesses to be more salient than those related to undernutrition. Zazzabin cizon sauro (fever from mosquito bite) was the most salient illness in both Adamawa (S = 0.54) and Kebbi (S = 0.72). In Adamawa, tammowa (any malnutrition) (S = 0.25) and rashin jini (lack of blood) (S = 0.21), were the 8th and 14th most salient, respectively. Similarly, in Kebbi, tammowa (S = 0.28) and rashin jini (S = 0.18) were not salient. Caregivers consider illness severity based on its potential to cause death and frequency of occurrence. Pile sorting in Adamawa revealed 4 local categorizations of illness. Similar groupings emerged in Kebbi.
In northern Nigeria, ethnographic methods yielded local phrases for messaging and training material development, and revealed similarities between cultural groups in two distant States. They also highlighted the need for sensitization and tailored communications to promote a MNP aimed to prevent nutrition-related illnesses.