ENGINE-sponsored PhD candidates successfully complete PhD Program: Dr. Abdulhalik Workicho and Dr. Netsanet Fentahun

ENGINE sponsored PhD graduates

To support the need for additional capacity of advance nutrition professionals within Ethiopia, the former USAID ENGINE project awarded PhD scholarships to eight students (three from Jimma University, two from Hawassa University, two from EPHI and one from Tufts University local staff) to undertake their doctoral studies through a dual-degree program implemented by Jimma University in collaboration with several European universities. University of Ghent in Belgium served as the lead university, with other European universities including Waginengen University in the Netherlands, University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Hohenheim University in Germany. Through the support of ENGINE, as of November 2018, two of the candidates have completed and defended their dissertation research, earning the PhD title. The remaining students continue to make progress toward the degree, two of which are expected to complete and defend their dissertation in the coming six months.

In celebration of their achievement, Growth through Nutrition hosted a learning event through which the findings from their research could be presented to professionals and technical experts working in the nutrition-related and nutrition-sensitive fields. The half-day event, attended by technical experts from Save the Children, CARE, Jhpiego and EPHI, featured short presentations from the graduates on their research process and findings, each followed by a round of Q&A.

Dr. Netsanet Fentahun, presenting on his dissertation topic of Understanding Child Malnutrition in Ethiopia: Determinants of Child Caring Practices, Multiple Anthropometric Failures and Seasonality of Growth, gave a brief overview of existing research in the field which has focused on a single component of caring practices, highlighting that multiple anthropometrical failures and seasonality of child growth are rarely addressed in study designs.  His dissertation work utilizes data from the longitudinal Agriculture-Nutrition Panel Survey conducted under ENGINE to determine clustering of child feeding and preventive behavior and its predictors, while comparing undernutrition with child morbidity and the determinants of multiple anthropometrical failures. Dr. Netsanet’s dissertation work also investigated the seasonality of child growth velocity and deficits along with their determinants. The panel survey, conducted over a period of 2 years, found that dietary diversity and food insecurity are common determinants of poor caring practices, multiple anthropometrical failures and seasonality of growth. Recommendations that arose from these findings include the increased and comprehensive targeting of mothers with poor care practices and the scaling-up of health care services for the management of children suffering from multiple anthropometric failures. Recommendations also included the suggestion to focus growth monitoring and promotion (including community child health days) during seasons with a high likelihood of growth deficit.

Dr. Abdulhalik Workicho, presenting his topic of Childbearing and Undernutrition during Adolescence and its Linkage with Newborn Birth Outcomes and Infant Growth in a Cohort of Young Pregnant Women and their Infants in Ethiopia, gave an introduction on the under-researched effect of teenage pregnancies on birth outcomes and subsequent growth of infants. Dr. Abdulhalik demonstrated that the pathways that effect birth outcomes are not well understood and that the limited evidence available comes from cross-sectional data and demographic and health surveys. Dr. Abdulhalik’s analysis of the data from the ENGINE Birth Cohort study thus aimed to address this gap by mapping the linkages between undernutrition, anemia, birth outcomes and infant linear growth in adolescent pregnancies.

His research found that there is an increased risk of undernutrition and anemia among adolescent pregnancies. The data also suggested that greater socio-economic status and dietary diversity lead to a decrease in incidences of undernutrition & anemia. An important determinant of birth outcomes was the teenage mother’s nutritional status during pregnancy and the younger the mother was during pregnancy, the child suffered from limited physical growth during early infancy. While these multiple negative effects of teenage pregnancy were enumerated, the study found teenage pregnancies had no effect on the overall linear growth of infants. The recommendations that arose from the study encourage a multi-sectoral collaboration between health, education, agriculture, economic, and justice sectors to address the multi-faceted and complicated matter of teenage pregnancies in Ethiopia.


For full copies of the doctoral dissertations, follow the links below:

Dr. Netsanet Fentahun: Understanding child malnutrition in Ethiopia: Determinants of child caring practices, multiple anthropometric failures and seasonality of growth

Dr. Abdulhalik Workicho: Childbearing and undernutrition during adolescence and its linkage with newborn birth outcome and infant growth in a cohort of young pregnant women and their infants in Ethiopia

Follow the links below to access publications by the two PhD graduates:

Diet diversity and ASF consumption

Poor child feeding practice and preventive behavior and its predictors

Seasonality and determinants of child growth



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