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Master of Agribusiness

Child Mortality: The Impacts of Food Safety and Tertiary Education

Debra Frey, Manhattan Kan., defended her thesis, “Child Mortality: The Impacts of Food Safety and Tertiary Education,” on May 2. 2011.  A former Gender Specialist with the Grain Industry Alliance International’s program for agriculture development in Afghanistan, she will graduate from Kansas State University in May with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB). 

Child mortality is defined as the death of a child less than five years of age. The United Nations developed eight goals aimed at ending extreme poverty by 2015 and one of those goals was to greatly reduce the child mortality rate around the world. 

Afghanistan is one of the most impoverished countries in the world and also has one of the highest child mortality rates. After spending time in Afghanistan observing a lack in higher education and witnessing slow adoption of food and water safety standards, Frey hypothesized that those two factors may contribute to the high child mortality rate. Her Master of Agribusiness thesis explored whether factors such as disposable income, access to clean food and water, and the level of education of parents affected the survivability of children.

“What was most surprising for me was the dramatic impact of tertiary [college or vocational] education, particularly for females, on child mortality rates,” Frey said. “As individuals gain a better understanding of how bacteria and microorganisms in food and water can cause illness, they can learn safer food handling procedures and the importance of clean water.”

Her results suggest that efforts to enhance education and increase economic opportunities will aid in the effort to reduce child mortality. Her results indicates that when a country has below 15% tertiary education for the female labor force, the country has the potential of deceasing child mortality by 5.27 children per 1,000 live births, if the country increases the female tertiary education by 1%.

Sean Fox, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Frey’s thesis advisor, said, “Deb’s work finds strong links between education levels and child mortality, and more importantly, points to cost effective ways that universities like K-State can contribute to reducing child mortality rates in low-income countries.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on K-State’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/8773.