Original Research

An assessment of nutritional status in children of rural, northern KwaZulu-Natal province

Kelly R. Gate, Nompumelelo G. Mfeka-Nkabinde, Kantharuben Naidoo
South African Family Practice | Vol 62, No 1 | a5040 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v62i1.5040 | © 2020 Kelly R. Gate, Nompumelelo G. Mfeka-Nkabinde, Kantharuben Naidoo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 November 2019 | Published: 21 May 2020

About the author(s)

Kelly R. Gate, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nompumelelo G. Mfeka-Nkabinde, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Kantharuben Naidoo, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Childhood malnutrition in South Africa is largely perceived as one of undernutrition, with the opposite end of the spectrum (overnutrition) being evidenced in the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, demonstrated to be associated with chronic metabolic diseases in adulthood. Targeting childhood malnutrition is a potential interventional strategy to prevent non-communicable diseases amongst adults. As the prevalence of malnutrition (undernutrition and overnutrition) in rural, northern KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, is largely unknown, this study aimed to determine the baseline nutritional status of children attending primary healthcare facilities within the Bethesda Hospital catchment area.

Methods: This quantitative, cross-sectional study included children aged 6 weeks to 19 years, attending any primary healthcare clinics for over a 3 months period. Anthropometric measurements were obtained to categorise the children according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) nutritional classifications.

Results: Stunting in children aged less than 5 years was found to be lower (14%) than nationally representative studies (27%); however, 14.4% of the infants aged 6 weeks to 5 months were overweight, increasing to 32.3% in those aged 14–19 years. Males in the 6-weeks to 5-month age group were more likely to be overweight/obese and stunted than females in the same age group.

Conclusion: Undernutrition is showing a downward trend, which is a testament to initiatives to reduce food insecurity amongst the poor. However, the emerging upward trend of overweight/obesity in children of all ages, indicates the need to have a national discussion on over- and undernutrition, its causes and implications.


Keywords

malnutrition; overnutrition; undernutrition; severe acute malnutrition; moderate acute malnutrition; stunting; wasting; thinness; overweight

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