Published in scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health recently, the researchers from India and the US claimed that their research was the first to assess prevalence of poor growth, such as stunting, underweight, and anaemia on the likelihood of undernutrition among young children living in Mumbai’s urban slums.
Involving 323 children who were 10 months to 18 months old, their study found that children of different genders faced different growth problems.
During the study, all children were provided with 400mg of albendazole – a medication for treatment of parasitic worm infestations – as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Researchers then measured variables such as their weight, length-for-age Z-score (LAZ), weight-for-age Z-score (WAZ), weight-for-length Z-score (WLZ), anaemia, and haemoglobin concentration.
The study found that anaemia was most common in these children at a prevalence rate of 76%, followed by stunting at 31.2%, underweight at 25.1%, and wasting at 9%.
Notably, boys are at a higher risk than the girls.
“In multivariate models, the male sex was associated with a 50% higher risk of stunting and lower LAZ score,” the researchers said.
Similar to the boys, the girls were also more likely to suffer from stunting if they had a low birthweight, shorter maternal height and lower maternal education.
In both genders, the taller the mother, the more protection they seemingly had against stunting, since “maternal height was associated with a 7% lower risk of stunting per every additional centimetre.”
However, girls are at a higher risk of stunting if they had caught a fever or coughing in the past one month.
“Differences by sex were observed, including that low birthweight and report of illness (fever and cough) were associated with stunting and low LAZ in females but not males,” the researchers said.
They added that coughing was also associated with lower WAZ among girls but not in boys.
“These results show that poor growth and anaemia among young children is prevalent in urban slums of Mumbai, and that sex of the child may play an important role in informing interventions to address undernutrition,” the researchers concluded.
Call for action
Besides suggesting the need to design nutrition program according to gender needs, the researchers also suggested that the effectiveness of current nutritional supplement programmes to be re-examined.
They also suggested the need to further explore factors such as circulating metabolites, gut microbiome, blood micronutrient concentrations, and immune function, on undernutrition.
Source: Frontiers in Public Health
Prevalence and Correlates of Undernutrition in Young Children Living in Urban Slums of Mumbai, India: A Cross Sectional Study
Authors: Samantha Lee Huey and et al