Nutritional needs of children with disabilities in the UAE: understanding predictors and mediators of nutritional knowledge and practices

Maxwell Peprah Opoku, Ashraf Moustafa, Noora Anwahi, Hala Elhoweris, Fatima Alkatheeri, Najwa Alhosani, Anwar Alameri, Shashidhar Belbase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is a high estimated prevalence of obesity and poor eating habits among children with disabilities. Unfortunately, the extent of parental and teachers’ awareness of the dietary needs and nutritional requirements of children with disabilities has been understudied. This study aims to explore the predictors and mediators of nutritional knowledge and practices among parents and teachers of children with disabilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using Nutbeam’s hierarchical health literacy model as a framework to test three hypotheses. Methods: A total of 149 parents and teachers were recruited from rehabilitation centres in two of the seven Emirates in the UAE. The revised Food and Nutritional Literacy Scale (FNLIT) was used for data collection. The revised scale was validated and its reliability was assessed using SPSS and AMOS version 28 to compute exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modelling (confirmatory factor analysis and path analysis), respectively. Results: The results confirmed a four-factor structure for FNLIT, and all three hypotheses were supported by the study findings. We confirmed a relationship between understanding and practical nutritional skills (Hypothesis I), and found that two practical nutritional skills, functional and interactive, combined to predict the understanding of nutritional needs of children with disabilities (Hypothesis II). Hypothesis III was partially supported in that participant type mediated the relationship between functional, interactive, and understanding factors. The convergent and discriminant validities of the scale were confirmed, and path analysis showed the ability of practical skills to predict knowledge. Conclusion: The study concludes on the need for public education on nutritional needs as well as developing the capacity of teachers and parents to implement appropriate eating programmes for children with disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109
JournalBMC Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Children with disabilities
  • Health literacy
  • Nutrition
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • UAE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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