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Study reveals that preschool-aged children in Uganda suffer from vitamin A deficiencies, impaired growth

Inadequate nutrition can lead to developmental challenges for children growing up in sub-Saharan Africa. In a new paper, Epidemiology PhD student Paddy Ssentongo, MD, MPH, explores the association of vitamin A deficiency with stunting, wasting and underweight among children in Uganda.

The World Health Organization outlines growth standards for children and defines stunting as a reduced linear growth rate.

In the new publication, Association of vitamin A deficiency with early childhood stunting in Uganda: A population-based cross-sectional study, researchers analyzed data from 4,765 preschool-aged children who participated in the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey in Uganda. Findings reveal that vitamin A deficiency was associated with higher odds of stunting, and the association was independent of the individual, household, and community-level variables.

According to their analysis, 27 percent of preschool-aged children in Uganda were stunted, 17 percent underweight and 4 percent wasted. After adjusting for age, sex, household and community-level factors, children with a vitamin A deficiency had 43 percent higher odds of stunted growth than those without a vitamin A deficiency.

“Our findings could be the missing piece of the malnutrition puzzle and could bring us closer to finding solutions to the high burden of child growth failure in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Ssentongo.

The paper was recently published by PLOS ONE. Joining Ssentongo on this publication were fellow Penn State researchers Djibril M. Ba, MPH; Anna E. Ssentongo, MPH; Yanxu Yang, MPH; Vernon M. Chinchilli, PhD; Jessica E. Ericson, MD, MPH; and Andrew Whalen, PhD. In addition, Claudio Fronterre, PhD, from Lancaster University, contributed to this paper.

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