Assessing early child development and its association with stunting and schistosome infections in rural Zimbabwean children using the Griffiths Scales of Child Development
There is a paucity of comprehensive early childhood development data at community level in rural Africa. We assessed the development of rural Zimbabwean children aged 6–72 months and determined the impact of stunting and schistosome infections on their 5 developmental domains; Eye and Hand Coordination, Personal-Social-Emotional, Language and Communication, Foundations of Learning and Gross Motor domains and the summary General Development. We have demonstrated that just over 50% of Zimbabwean children in rural areas are on course for normal child development; with many being more advanced for their age in Gross Motor and Personal-Social-Emotional domains. We also demonstrate that the children face developmental challenges in early childhood, particularly in Foundations for Learning which represents critical psychometric constructs and cognitive skills for learning, executive function, ways of thinking, problem solving, organizing and information planning, analytic thought and memory. We further demonstrate that the poor development scores especially in Foundations for Learning were also attributable to stunting and schistosome infection, with the impact of the latter being reversed by curative antihelminthic treatment. Taken together, the findings strengthen the call for the treatment of paediatric schistosomiasis, accessibility to cognitive stimulation tools and improved nutrition to improve childhood health outcomes.