Poor Nutrition Leading Cause of Child Death

More needs to be done to save millions of children worldwide, researchers say

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MONDAY, June 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Improved nutrition could save the lives of more than half the children who die around the world each year, says a study in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Rates of undernutrition are not declining quickly enough. If we invest more resources in child nutrition interventions, we can potentially save millions of young lives," study author Laura E. Caulfield, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

Undernutrition, defined as underweight or low-weight-for-age, is responsible for more than 53 percent of all the world's child deaths each year, more than infectious diseases, pnuemonia, diarrhea, measles and malaria.

"Malnutrition does not have to be severe to have a significant impact on child health and survival. Our analysis shows that even children who were small, but whose weight would not classify them as malnourished, were twice as likely to die as children in our reference group," Caulfield said.

She and her colleagues examined data from sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. They believe efforts to prevent undernutrition should be among the top priorities in worldwide efforts to reduce child death rates.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has information about nutrition.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, June 17, 2004

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