Short-term and long-term associations between household wealth and physical growth: a cross-comparative analysis of children from four low- and middle-income countries

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Krishna, Aditi ; Oh, Juhwan ; Lee, Jong-koo ; Lee, Hwa-Young ; Perkins, Jessica M. ; Heo, Jongho ; Ro, Young Sun ; Subramanian, S.V. (2015)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: Global Health Action, volume 8 (issn: 1654-9716, eissn: 1654-9880)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/gha.v8.26523, doi: 10.3402/gha.v8.26523., pmc: PMC4320209
  • Subject: Global Health; Preventive Medicine; Population Health; Epidemiology | Original Article | Subclass RA | child nutrition | life-course epidemiology | socioeconomic conditions; poverty; child nutrition; life-course epidemiology | poverty | socioeconomic conditions

Background: Stunting, a form of anthropometric failure, disproportionately affects children in developing countries with a higher burden on children living in poverty. How early life deprivation affects physical growth over various life stages is less well-known.Objective: We investigate the short- and long-run associations between household wealth in early life with physical growth in childhood in four low- and middle-income countries to understand the persistent implications of early life conditions of poverty and resource constraints on physical growth.Design: Longitudinal study of eight cohorts of children in four countries – Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam (n=10,016) – ages 6 months to 15 years, using data from the Young Lives project, 2002–2009. Physical growth outcomes are standardized height-for-age z-scores (HAZ) and stunting. The key exposure is household wealth measured at baseline using a wealth index, an asset-based indicator. Covariates include child’s age and sex, caregiver’s educational status, household size, and place of residence.Results: Baseline wealth index is significantly associated with higher physical growth rates as suggested by higher HAZ and lower odds of stunting. We found these associations in all four countries, for younger and older cohorts and for children who experienced changes in living standards. For the older cohort, despite the timing of the first survey at age 7–8 years, which is beyond the critical period of 1,000 days, there are lasting influences of early poverty, even for those who experienced changes in wealth.Conclusions: Household wealth in early life matters for physical growth with conditions of poverty and deprivation influencing growth faltering even beyond the 1,000 days window. The influences of early childhood poverty, so prevalent among children in low- and middle-income countries, must be addressed by policies and programs targeting early life but also focusing on older children experiencing growth faltering.Keywords: socioeconomic conditions; poverty; child nutrition; life-course epidemiology(Published: 5 February 2015)Citation: Glob Health Action 2015, 8: 26523 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/gha.v8.26523
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