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      The prevalence of stunting, overweight and obesity, and metabolic disease risk in rural South African children

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          Low- to middle-income countries are undergoing a health transition with non-communicable diseases contributing substantially to disease burden, despite persistence of undernutrition and infectious diseases. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence and patterns of stunting and overweight/obesity, and hence risk for metabolic disease, in a group of children and adolescents in rural South Africa.


          A cross-sectional growth survey was conducted involving 3511 children and adolescents 1-20 years, selected through stratified random sampling from a previously enumerated population living in Agincourt sub-district, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Anthropometric measurements including height, weight and waist circumference were taken using standard procedures. Tanner pubertal assessment was conducted among adolescents 9-20 years. Growth z-scores were generated using 2006 WHO standards for children up to five years and 1977 NCHS/WHO reference for older children. Overweight and obesity for those <18 years were determined using International Obesity Task Force BMI cut-offs, while adult cut-offs of BMI ≥ 25 and ≥ 30 kg/m 2 for overweight and obesity respectively were used for those ≥ 18 years. Waist circumference cut-offs of ≥ 94 cm for males and ≥ 80 cm for females and waist-to-height ratio of 0.5 for both sexes were used to determine metabolic disease risk in adolescents.


          About one in five children aged 1-4 years was stunted; one in three of those aged one year. Concurrently, the prevalence of combined overweight and obesity, almost non-existent in boys, was substantial among adolescent girls, increasing with age and reaching approximately 20-25% in late adolescence. Central obesity was prevalent among adolescent girls, increasing with sexual maturation and reaching a peak of 35% at Tanner Stage 5, indicating increased risk for metabolic disease.


          The study highlights that in transitional societies, early stunting and adolescent obesity may co-exist in the same socio-geographic population. It is likely that this profile relates to changes in nutrition and diet, but variation in factors such as infectious disease burden and physical activity patterns, as well as social influences, need to be investigated. As obesity and adult short stature are risk factors for metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, this combination of early stunting and adolescent obesity may be an explosive combination.

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          Boys are more stunted than girls in Sub-Saharan Africa: a meta-analysis of 16 demographic and health surveys

          Background Many studies in sub-Saharan Africa have occasionally reported a higher prevalence of stunting in male children compared to female children. This study examined whether there are systematic sex differences in stunting rates in children under-five years of age, and how the sex differences in stunting rates vary with household socio-economic status. Methods Data from the most recent 16 demographic and health surveys (DHS) in 10 sub-Saharan countries were analysed. Two separate variables for household socio-economic status (SES) were created for each country based on asset ownership and mothers' education. Quintiles of SES were constructed using principal component analysis. Sex differentials with stunting were assessed using Student's t-test, chi square test and binary logistic regressions. Results The prevalence and the mean z-scores of stunting were consistently lower amongst females than amongst males in all studies, with differences statistically significant in 11 and 12, respectively, out of the 16 studies. The pooled estimates for mean z-scores were -1.59 for boys and -1.46 for girls with the difference statistically significant (p < 0.001). The stunting prevalence was also higher in boys (40%) than in girls (36%) in pooled data analysis; crude odds ratio 1.16 (95% CI 1.12–1.20); child age and individual survey adjusted odds ratio 1.18 (95% CI 1.14–1.22). Male children in households of the poorest 40% were more likely to be stunted compared to females in the same group, but the pattern was not consistent in all studies, and evaluation of the SES/sex interaction term in relation to stunting was not significant for the surveys. Conclusion In sub-Saharan Africa, male children under five years of age are more likely to become stunted than females, which might suggest that boys are more vulnerable to health inequalities than their female counterparts in the same age groups. In several of the surveys, sex differences in stunting were more pronounced in the lowest SES groups.
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            Food variety and dietary diversity scores in children: are they good indicators of dietary adequacy?

             NP Steyn,  JH Nel,  G Nantel (2006)
            To assess whether a food variety score (FVS) and/or a dietary diversity score (DDS) are good indicators of nutrient adequacy of the diet of South African children. Secondary data analyses were undertaken with nationally representative data of 1-8-year-old children (n = 2200) studied in the National Food Consumption Study in 1999. An average FVS (mean number of different food items consumed from all possible items eaten) and DDS (mean number of food groups out of nine possible groups) were calculated. A nutrient adequacy ratio (NAR) is the ratio of a subject's nutrient intake to the estimated average requirement calculated using the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (2002) recommended nutrient intakes for children. The mean adequacy ratio (MAR) was calculated as the sum of NARs for all evaluated nutrients divided by the number of nutrients evaluated, expressed as a percentage. MAR was used as a composite indicator for micronutrient adequacy. Pearson correlation coefficients between FVS, DDS and MAR were calculated and also evaluated for sensitivity and specificity, with MAR taken as the ideal standard of adequate intake. The relationships between MAR and DDS and between anthropometric Z-scores and DDS were also evaluated. The children had a mean FVS of 5.5 (standard deviation (SD) 2.5) and a mean DDS of 3.6 (SD 1.4). The mean MAR (ideal = 100%) was 50%, and was lowest (45%) in the 7-8-year-old group. The items with the highest frequency of consumption were from the cereal, roots and tuber group (99.6%), followed by the 'other group' (87.6%) comprising items such as tea, sugar, jam and sweets. The dairy group was consumed by 55.8%, meat group by 54.1%, fats by 38.9%, other vegetables by 30.8%, vitamin-A-rich by 23.8%, other fruit by 22%, legumes and nuts by 19.7% and eggs by 13.3%. There was a high correlation between MAR and both FVS (r = 0.726; P < 0.0001) and DDS (r = 0.657; P < 0.0001), indicating that either FVS or DDS can be used as an indicator of the micronutrient adequacy of the diet. Furthermore, MAR, DDS and FVS showed significant correlations with height-for-age and weight-for-age Z-scores, indicating a strong relationship between dietary diversity and indicators of child growth. A DDS of 4 and an FVS of 6 were shown to be the best indicators of MAR less than 50%, since they provided the best sensitivity and specificity. Either FVS or DDS can be used as a simple and quick indicator of the micronutrient adequacy of the diet.
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              Research into health, population and social transitions in rural South Africa: data and methods of the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System.

              Vital registration is generally lacking in infrastructurally weak areas where health and development problems are most pressing. Health and demographic surveillance is a response to the lack of a valid information base that can provide high-quality longitudinal data on population dynamics, health, and social change to inform policy and practice. Continuous demographic monitoring of an entire geographically defined population involves a multi-round, prospective community study, with annual recording of all vital events (births, deaths, migrations). Status observations and special modules add value to particular research areas. A verbal autopsy is conducted on every death to determine its probable cause. A geographic surveillance system supports spatial analyses, and strengthens field management. Health and demographic surveillance covers the Agincourt sub-district population, sited in rural north-eastern South Africa, of some 70,000 people (nearly a third are Mozambican immigrants) in 21 villages and 11,700 households. Data enumerated are consistent or more detailed when compared with national sources; strategies to improve incomplete data, such as counts of perinatal deaths, have been introduced with positive effect. Basic characteristics: A major health and demographic transition was documented over a 12-year period with marked changes in population structure, escalating mortality, declining fertility, and high levels of temporary migration increasing particularly amongst women. A dual burden of infectious and non-communicable disease exists against a background of dramatically progressing HIV/AIDS. Health and demographic surveillance sites - fundamental to the INDEPTH Network - generate research questions and hypotheses from empirical data, highlight health, social and population priorities, provide cost-effective support for diverse study designs, and track population change and the impact of interventions over time.[image omitted].

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                25 March 2010
                : 10
                : 158
                [1 ]MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
                [2 ]Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
                [3 ]MRC Mineral Metabolism Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
                [4 ]Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
                Copyright ©2010 Kimani-Murage et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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