evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Exploring the paradox: double burden of malnutrition in rural South Africa

In Over-nutrition, Under-nutrition on April 18, 2014 at 7:11 am

by Kimani-Murage EW.

Glob Health Action. 2013 Jan 24;6:19249

(download)

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

This article is a review of the PhD thesis by Elizabeth Kimani-Murage that explores the double burden of malnutrition in rural South Africa. This is in the context of a worryingly rapid increase in obesity and obesity-related diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) including South Africa, and in the wake of on-going nutrition transition and lifestyle changes in these countries.

OBJECTIVE:

To understand the profiles of malnutrition among children and adolescents in a poor, high HIV prevalent, transitional society in a middle-income country.

METHODS:

A cross-sectional growth survey was conducted in 2007 targeting 4,000 children and adolescents aged 1-20 years. In addition, HIV testing was carried out on children aged 1-5 years and Tanner pubertal assessment among adolescents aged 9-20 years.

RESULTS:

The study shows stunting at an early age and adolescent obesity, particularly among girls, that co-exists in the same socio-geographic population. The study also shows that HIV is an independent modifiable risk factor for poor nutritional outcomes in children and makes a significant contribution to nutritional outcomes at the individual level. Significant predictors of undernutrition at an early age, documented at individual, household, and community levels, include child’s HIV status, age and birth weight, maternal age, age of household head, and area of residence. Significant predictors of overweight/obesity and risk for metabolic disease during adolescence, documented at individual and household levels include child’s age, sex, and pubertal development, household-level food security, socio-economic status, and household head’s highest education level.

CONCLUSIONS:

The combination of early stunting and adolescent obesity raises critical concerns in the wake of the rising public health importance of metabolic diseases in LMICs. This is because, both paediatric obesity and adult short stature are risk factors for metabolic syndrome and metabolic diseases in adulthood. Clearly, policies and interventions to address malnutrition in this and other transitional societies need to be double-pronged and gender-sensitive.

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