Drivers of childhood malnutrition

A study analyzes how disparities in childhood nutrition are associated with rainfall, agricultural success, and infrastructure. Persistent malnutrition in young children limits development and increases the likelihood of severe illness. Eliminating childhood malnutrition through policies would require identifying the effects of many factors, including agricultural performance, rainfall, and economic influences on childhood growth metrics. Gerald Shively studied how these factors influenced the growth of 11,946 children less than 5 years of age from Nepal and Uganda. No set of factors completely explained childhood growth. However, the author found that height-for-age, a measure of lifelong health, and weight-for-height, a measure of current health, generally rose with increasing rainfall and agricultural success, although patterns varied substantially. Specifically, the amount of rain during the growing season of a child’s birth year was positively associated with child growth. In some regions, high rainfall was associated with low weight-for-height, possibly due to waterborne diseases. Child health was more sensitive to rainfall in Nepal than Uganda, likely because Nepal has lower average rainfall and higher rainfall variability than Uganda. The negative effect of low rainfall on childhood growth was dampened in areas where families had access to markets, which improve food security, and health care systems. According to the author, a holistic approach, including improving infrastructure, is needed to combat childhood malnutrition. - Read at PNAS.org

Article #15-24482: “Infrastructure mitigates the sensitivity of child growth to local agriculture and rainfall in Nepal and Uganda,” by Gerald Shively.