How Disease In Childhood Can Result In Stunted Growth

Children in Disasters

Stunted growth is often the sign that there is something wrong with the body. Maybe the problem is an infection(s). Or the child has a genetic disorder from birth. Or the child has problems making certain hormones.

Another reason – and a simple one at that – is that the child has nutritional deficiencies. This is commonly seen in foreign countries.

Sometimes the foreign country recognizes that they must initiate governmental strategies to overcome the source of the stunted growth, as what happened in Brazil.

You Can Have Stunted Growth Along With Obesity And Anemia

Child Obesity

In Sao Paulo, at the Department of Pediatrics at the Universidade Federal de Sau Paulo, researchers and doctors found that stunted growth and overweight is common in Brazilian children.

When income in the family was low, the 270 kids in the eight daycare centers suffered greater risk of stunting, tendency of being overweight, and risk of having anemia.

Now that this is known, they can start to make a difference and do something about the anemia and stunted growth.


Disasters Will Affect Health And Height Status Of Kids

Children in Disasters

Sometimes it’s the external conditions in a country that contributes to stunted growth. In Beichuan, Lixian, in China, there was an earthquake in 2008.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing wanted to find out what was happening to the children, with regards to their nutritional status and development.

Were the kids anemic? Did the earthquake and bad situation impact their growth and cause stunted growth? All these were big questions to answer.

The researchers followed close to 500 children under 2 years old over a three month period of time. Here’s what they found:

  • 9% to 15% of the children were low weight infants, depending on the county studied.
  • 9% of the children were placed in the wasted category. This means they were essentially wasting away from protein calorie malnutrition.
  • The rates of anemia were very high. In one county the levels hit almost 50% and in the other, almost 79%.  Between 8 and 20% of these children had moderate levels of anemia.
  • Stunted growth levels were 26% in one county and 24% in the other county.

From this study we see that stunted growth is a potential problem once a big disaster strikes.


Stunted Growth Often Goes Along With Parasites

Parasite Eggs

Researchers at the University of Buea in Cameroon discovered that children in Cameroon who had parasitic infections stunted the kids’ growth.

In this cross-sectional study, 265 children from the age of 4 all the way up to 14 years old were included in the study.

The scientists confirmed the parasite infections with stool analyses  that counted on average 363 eggs per gram of stool sample. This is a pretty clear case of parasite infection, and the range was anywhere between 76 and 30000 eggs per gram of stool.

They found that 30% of all the 80 kids who were malnourished clearly had malnutrition:  24% of the kids were stunted for their growth.

  • 7% were underweight
  • 5% were wasted

Thus, the removal of parasites could potentially reduce the number of kids with stunted growth.

You can read more about this at

There’s Always Something To Do To Improve Stunted Growth

Next StepIn Haiti, there’s still a lot of economic devastation and malnutrition. There’s also a lot of infectious disease.

The government decided to initiate a program for the kids under 2 years of age (preventative program) and those specifically who were underweight and up to 5 years old (recuperative program).

Their goal was to eliminate the stunted growth. The researchers call height “linear growth”.  They included several strategies to see if the stunted growth could be stopped in the children:

  • Provided monthly food rations for families and increased rations for pregnant and lactating mothers.
  • Home visits for newborn infants
  • Home visits for children who were severely malnourished
  • Provided vitamin A supplements
  • Provided rehydration formulas
  • Made antiparasitic drugs available to the children under the age of five
  • Provided vaccinations
  • Gave consultations to pregnant and lactating moms

As a result of these programs, breastfeeding increased to more than 97%. This is a great strategy to increase nutrition of the babies from an early age. This was a 21 to 25% increase in breastfeeding from before.

The number of children getting vaccinated was 32% higher than before. And as a result of all the work they did, the rate of stunted growth in the children was 11 to 16% lower than before. They made a big difference in this area.


Something can definitely be done about stunted growth, as we see from these studies.

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