The effect of haemoglobin E on iron status in Cambodian school children

Start date: 19 January, 2013 End date: 19 May, 2013 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A21550 Countries: Cambodia Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Pernille Kierkegaard Total grant: 14,000 DKK



It has been an amazing experience to work in Phnom Penh,Cambodia. The project is conducted in collaboration with IRD (Institute of Research for Development), WFP (World Food Programme),the health NGO 'Path' and the Cambodian Department of Fisheries Post-Harvest Technologies and Quality Control (DFPTQ) and the Fisheries administration. We brought a team of approximately 50 people for the data collection,which  consisted mostly of psychology students and newly graduated nurses. When working across nationalities there might be complications due to cultural differences. The cultural differences might result in different  ways of solving a task, different  ways of communication,different expectations to work load etc. There were some communication problems in relation to meetings at the office. The agenda was not followed and it was therefore difficult to keep it structured and pass through all the items. In the end we adapted and went directly to the persons involved if it did not affect everyone else.

Working with the team during the data collection was a pleasure. They worked hard, would not complain if we had asked them to work 6 days a week,but had time to joke around and get to know each other as well. Asians are famous of being polite;so polite that they always say yes even though they might not agree with you. I was prepared for that when arriving. However that has not been an issue that I have encountered.

I was part of the study group during midline data collection but I will need data from base line and end line as well. Furthermore I have not received the data on which kids have haemoglobinopathies and who has not. They are still being worked on. Usually one of the symptoms of haemoglobinopathies is anaemia. I haven't calculated the exact prevalence of anaemia among the children yet,but looking briefly through the data from the base line indicates a low prevalence compared to what I expected. This might indicate a
lower prevalence of children with haemoglobinopathies compared to the almost 50% that I expected based
on previous studies. However many of the children have borderline haemoglobin concentrations and therefore more children might have haemoglobinopathies than first indicated. After all,depending on the kind of mutation the symptoms of haemoglobinopathies are very varied. Some might not have any symptoms at all.

Despite a seemingly low prevalence of haemoglobinopathies I will still have data that I can use for my master thesis. There will still be some children with haemoglobinopathies and I can analyse the effect of
the study on those children and compare it with the rest. Furthermore I have expanded my study and will in
August do some laboratory work in Copenhagen in order to see the relation between haemoglobinopathies and the hepcidin level in blood. This addition will add an extra dimension to the study,so lack of children with haemoglobinopathies should not affect my master thesis. In the end I will get all the data I will need in order to do a proper analysis of the effect of iron from the fortified rice in children with haemoglobinopathies.

To work in a foreign country gives experience in cooperating with people with a different culture and mind set. It has prepared me for a possible future as a researcher in the field of international nutrition. Having an open mind diminishes the problems that might occur due to cultural differences. However the will to discuss problems that might be related to culture is also needed. Being part of the team and help collecting the data has confirmed that this is what I want.