OBJECTIVE: To identify determinants of protein-energy malnutrition resulting in weight and linear growth deficits in children. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was carried out among 1,041 children (under two years of age) from 10 municipalities in Bahia, Northeastern Brazil, during 1999-2000. Both logistic regression and a hierarchical approach were used to identify factors associated with the anthropometric measures. RESULTS: The basic determinant found in the final model for linear growth retardation was having up to two household appliances (OR=2.9; 95% CI: 1.74-4.90); as an underlying determinant, not attending prenatal visits (OR=2.7; 95% CI: 1.47-4.97); and, among immediate determinants were low birth weight (OR=3.6; 95% CI: 1.72-7.70) and reported hospitalization within 12 months before the interview (OR=2.4; 95% CI: 1.42-4.10). Determinants of weight deficit at the basic, underlying and immediate levels were: per capita monthly income of less than one-fourth of the minimum wage (OR=3.4; 95% CI: 1.41-8.16), not attending prenatal visits (OR=2.1; 95% CI: 1.03-4.35) and low birth weight (OR=4.8; 95% CI: 2.00-11.48) respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Children's weight and linear deficits were accounted for the overlapping of poor material living conditions, limited access to health care and disease burden. Interventions aimed at improving living conditions and better access to health care programs are strategies towards equity in children's health and nutrition.
Protein-energy malnutrition; Infant; Body weights and measures; Risk factors; Social conditions; Cross-sectional studies