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Nutrition Interventions Reduce Growth Stunting and Death

Study investigates methods to improve maternal and child nutrition in developing countries

THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Interventions to improve maternal and child nutrition, such as promotion of breast-feeding and supplementation of food and micronutrients, could significantly reduce growth stunting and childhood mortality in developing countries, according to an article published online Jan. 17 in The Lancet.

As part of the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Ph.D., of Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, and colleagues reviewed the efficacy of interventions affecting maternal and child nutrition and health. The researchers also created a model to predict the effect of these interventions on childhood outcomes in 36 countries in which 90 percent of children have stunted linear growth.

Strategies to increase breast-feeding had a large effect on survival, but minimally improved growth stunting. Education about complementary feeding improved measures of growth in populations with sufficient food, and a positive benefit was also seen with provision of food supplements to groups with inadequate food. Managing severe acute malnutrition using World Health Organization guidelines reduced the case-fatality rate by 55 percent. Supplementation of iron folate and micronutrients to pregnant women significantly reduced anemia and low birth weight, respectively. The researchers predicted that institution of these interventions could reduce stunting by 36 percent and mortality by 25 percent between birth and 36 months of age.

"We have shown that the evidence for benefit from nutrition interventions is convincing. What is needed is the technical expertise and the political will to combat undernutrition in the very countries that need in most," the authors conclude.

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