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Poor sanitation a strong predictor of child stunting

posted 17 Sep 2013, 03:05 by RCN Uganda

Poor sanitation is a better predictor of child stunting than calorie consumption, new data shows. The authors of the study say, however, that both sanitation and calorie consumption contribute in different ways to health and well-being.

Any new work on malnutrition has been severely hamstrung for the past few years by the absence of new data; the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey, which collects data on underweight and stunted children and adults, is expected to come out with its numbers only in 2014, nearly ten years after the last round. To move beyond this limitation and use new data, the researchers — Dean Spears of the Delhi School of Economics’ Centre for Development Economics, Arabinda Ghosh of the IAS, and Oliver Cumming of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine — used data on stunting from the HUNGaMA survey of 73,000 households in 112 districts conducted by the Naandi Foundation in 2011. To measure sanitation, they looked at levels of open defecation from the 2011 census.

They found that open defecation was a strong predictor of child stunting; districts with higher levels of open defecation had higher levels of child stunting, even after controlling for other factors like household expenditure, household size and calorie consumption. A 10 per cent increase in open defecation was associated with a 0.7 percentage point increase in both stunting and severe stunting, they said in an article that was published in the peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal PLOS ONE on Monday night.

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