Digital Public Defence: Prudence Atukunda

M.Sc Prudence Atukunda at Institute of Basic Medical Sciences will be defending the thesis “Improved child development outcomes in rural Uganda: long-term follow-up of a randomized maternal education trial” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

The public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.


Click here to participate in the digital public defence

Download Zoom here


Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

See Digital Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Associate Professor Lisanne du Plessis, Stellenbosch University
  • Second opponent: Professor Lars Åke Persson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine/Ethiopian Public Health Institute
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Associate Professor Elia Mmbaga, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor Emeritus Haakon Benestad, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Associate Professor Ane Cecilie Westerberg, Høyskolen Kristiania


Children from low resource communities struggle with poor growth that negatively affects child development. Low nutrient supply, poor hygiene and lack of stimulation are suggested causes. In addition, poor gut health, inadequate iodine status and maternal depression may contribute.

In 2013-14, a randomised controlled trial (RCT), among 511 mothers of 6-8 months infants in rural Uganda was performed. A six months, maternal education intervention was conducted, emphasizing nutrition/feeding, hygiene and stimulation, primarily aiming to reduce poor growth. The strategy was to promote behaviour change and empowerment through providing information and prompt practice.

Atukunda and co-workers performed a follow-up study among a subgroup of 155 children at 2 and 3 years age aiming to assess the effects of the intervention on child developmental outcomes and growth. In addition, child gut microbiota (microorganisms in the digestive tract), iodine status (an important mineral in the human body) and maternal depression symptoms were assessed.

At ages 2 and 3 years, growth was only minimally affected, but the children from mothers in the intervention group scored far better on measures of cognitive (ability acquire knowledge and understanding), language and motor functions. While gut microbiota could not explain improved developmental outcomes, reduced maternal depression was associated with our positive findings. Remarkably, child gut microorganism diversity increased between 20-24 and 36 months age. Iodine intake was only associated with development in the intervention group, indicating that sufficient iodine may be important in this setting.

This study contributes to the wider knowledge, indicating that maternal education on adequate infant nutrition and hygiene practices together with stimulation positively impact on child development and to some extent growth. 


Additional information

Contact the research support staff.

Published Sep. 23, 2020 10:54 AM - Last modified Oct. 12, 2020 10:44 AM