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Sao Paulo Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 1516-3180On-line version ISSN 1806-9460


LIMA, Marilia de Carvalho; MOTTA, Maria Eugênia Farias Almeida; SANTOS, Eliane Cavalcanti  and  SILVA, Gisélia Alves Pontes da. Determinants of impaired growth among hospitalized children: a case-control study. Sao Paulo Med. J. [online]. 2004, vol.122, n.3, pp.117-123. ISSN 1516-3180.

CONTEXT: Protein energy malnutrition constitutes a public health problem, especially in less affluent countries. The identification of amenable predictive risk factors is of major importance for policy makers to plan interventions to reduce infant malnutrition. OBJECTIVE: To identify risk factors for protein energy malnutrition among hospitalized low-income children aged 6 to 24 months. TYPE OF STUDY: Case-control study. SETTING: Two public hospitals in Recife, Brazil. PARTICIPANTS: The cases were 124 infants with length-for-age below the 10th percentile of the National Center for Health Statistics curve and the controls were 241 infants with length-for-age equal to or above the 10th percentile who were recruited in the same infirmary. METHODS: Cases and controls were compared in relation to a variety of sociodemographic, environmental and reproductive factors, and their healthcare, previous feeding practice and morbidity. Logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the net effect of risk factors on infant malnutrition, after adjusting for potential confounding variables. RESULTS: The mother's age, possession of a TV set, type of water supply, family size and location of the home were significantly associated with child malnutrition in the bivariate analysis. However, these associations lost their significance after adjusting for other explanatory variables in the hierarchical logistic regression analysis. This analysis showed that low birth weight contributed the largest risk for impaired growth. Increased risks of infant malnutrition were also significantly associated with households that had no toilet facilities or refrigerator, high parity for the mother, no breastfeeding of the infant, inadequate vaccination coverage and previous hospitalization for diarrhea and pneumonia. DISCUSSION: The literature shows that chronic malnutrition, as assessed by low length-for-age indexes, is often related to low income. However, this was not the case in this study, in which other variables had greater impact on child growth. CONCLUSIONS: In view of the multiple causes of malnutrition, the interrelationship among its determinants should be taken into account when adopting strategies for its reduction and prevention.

Keywords : Protein-energy malnutrition; Socioeconomic factors; Low birth weight infant; Healthcare sector; Malnutrition.

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