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Logo of pubhealthrepPublic Health Reports
Public Health Rep. 2008 May-Jun; 123(3): 382.
PMCID: PMC2289964

International Observer

Mark Robson, PhD, MPH

This article by Jiayou Luo et al. reminds us that even in countries with a large population, children with very traditional values end up being the victims of changes in work patterns, migration, and social norms. This article suggests that children who are attended by nonparents—either grandparents or other relatives—face less care and many nutrition problems, such as low intake of some nutrients and poor physical development related to nutritional status. The authors suggest that nutrition is the key factor and recommend nutritional intervention programs to improve the children's living conditions. However, in Spain, work by Bel et al.1 showed an important proportion of children with significant growth retardation upon entering a foster home, although significant catch-up growth was observed at the end of their stay. Growth failure in this population did not appear to be related to nutritional status.

While this article does make the case for nutrition being most affected by the setting upon being left behind, it also raises the important issue of how a society like China, which is changing so rapidly, overlooks some of the basic tenets of family life. It also highlights how ill-prepared China seems to be in safeguarding its most vulnerable citizens from such basic rights as a healthy diet and a safe and nurturing environment.2 Changes in labor patterns directly affect social patterns, and traditional villages and small cities are not immune from their direct effects on children's well-being.


1. Bel J, Natal A, Cachadiñna F, Mainou A, Granada ML, Rodrigo C. Growth retardation and nutritional status in foster children. Med Clin (Barc) 2002;118:86–9. [PubMed]
2. World Health Organization. WHO global database on child growth and malnutrition. [cited 2008 Jan 3]. Available from: URL:

Articles from Public Health Reports are provided here courtesy of SAGE Publications