Topical Area: Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
The height-for-age index, a useful marker of health, is not sensitive to recent nutritional insufficiencies but instead reflects cumulative growth deficiencies and linear growth retardation. Low height-for-age, known as stunting, reflects malnutrition over an extended period and can be affected by long-term or chronic morbidity. The weight-for-height index reveals malnourished children at a point in the time and the weight-for-age index reflects underweight children. This study examined trends and sociodemographic inequities in the nutritional status of children under 5 over a 14-year period (2000-2014) in Cambodia.
This analysis used data from four Cambodia Demographic and Health Surveys (CDHS) surveys in 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2014 to investigate child nutritional status over time. We conducted tests of association to identify significant changes between each survey, as well as between the first survey and the most recent survey. We performed additional tests of associations to assess the significance of relationships between these indicators and sociodemographic and health covariates within each survey and across surveys. These variables included place of residence (urban or rural), region, wealth quintile, and mother’s education. We also included maternal age at birth, birth order, birth interval, ANC, facility delivery, and assistance at birth.
The percentage of children who are stunted in Cambodia significantly decreased over the period of the four surveys, from 50% in 2000 to 32% in 2014. We found persisting significant differences in the percentages of stunted children in nearly all background characteristics including rural-urban residence, region, wealth, mother’s education, age, and smoking status, location of and assistance at delivery, and child’s current age.
Cambodia did not meet the MDG target for stunting by 2015, but the 17% significant decrease achieved in stunting from 2000 to 2014 is promising. This analysis shows gains in every background characteristic over the 14-year period. These gains reflect the impact of the several national programs that have focused on improving nutrition over the past decade; nevertheless, regional and wealth disparities persist and should be addressed.
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