Study blames undernutrition for half of child deaths worldwide
Better nutrition could prevent more than half the world's child deaths, researchers with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization announced on 17 Jun 2004.
According to a new study, undernutrition — which afflicts children who are underweight or have low weight for their age — is the underlying cause of 53 percent of all child deaths, including those from diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and malaria (JHSPH release, June 17).
Providing all children with an adequate diet could save more than 2.5 million lives per year, according to the report, because poor nourishment leaves children so weakened that non-fatal diseases such as diarrhea can kill them (BBC Online, June 17).
"Malnutrition does not have to be severe to have a significant impact on child health and survival," lead author Laura Caulfield of Johns Hopkins said. "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."
The study, which will appear in the July 1 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms earlier research but goes a step further by breaking down the role undernutrition plays in deaths attributable to various ills. It found that undernutrition is responsible for 60 percent of deaths resulting from diarrhea, 57 percent of deaths from malaria, 52 percent of deaths from pneumonia and 45 percent of deaths from measles.
Funding for the research was provided by WHO, Johns Hopkins and the U.S. Agency for International Development (JHSPH release, June 17).