Regional disparity in prevalence of malnutrition in Saudi children

El Mouzan, Mohammad I., Al-Herbish, Abdullah S., Al-Salloum, Abdullah A., Foster, Peter J., Al-Omar, Ahmad A., Qurachi, Mansour M. and Kecojevic, Tatyana (2010) Regional disparity in prevalence of malnutrition in Saudi children. Saudi Medical Journal, 31 (5). pp. 550-554. ISSN 0379-5284

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Objectives: To evaluate the regional difference in the prevalence of malnutrition in Saudi children. Methods: Data for this study were collected over 2 years (2004 and 2005). A cross-sectional representative sample of the Saudi population of healthy children below 5 years of age was used to calculate the prevalence of malnutrition. The study was carried out in the College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Body measurements of the weight, length, and height were performed according to standard recommendations. Standard deviation scores were determined using the Lambda, Mu, and Sigma (LMS) statistical methodology. The 1978 NCHS/WHO growth reference was used for the calculation of prevalence of underweight, wasting, and stunting defined as the proportion of children whose weight for age, weight for height, and height for age was below minus standard deviation (-2 SD) for Northern, Southwestern, and Central regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Chisquare test was used to assess the difference in prevalence between regions, and a p<0.05 was considered significant. Results: The sample size of children <5 years of age in Central region was 5067, Southwestern 2285, and Northern 2933. The prevalence of underweight was 4%, 19.7% and 5.5%, that of wasting was 6.5%, 16.7% and 6.5% and of stunting was 6.4%, 13.2% and 6.4% in the Central, Southwestern, and Northern regions indicating a significantly-higher prevalence in Southwestern compared to other regions (p<0.001). Conclusions: This report revealed a high prevalence of significant nutritional indicators in the Southwestern regions than in other regions. This finding indicates that this region should be given priority for further studies to identify causes, and to design health promotion programs.

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