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BMC Public Health. 2012; 12: 27.
Published online Jan 11, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2458-12-27
PMCID: PMC3268107
Nutritional status of Palestinian preschoolers in the Gaza Strip: a cross-sectional study
Salwa G Massad,corresponding author1 FJ Nieto,2 Mari Palta,3 Maureen Smith,2 Roseanne Clark,3 and Abdel-Aziz Thabet4
1Department of Economics, BirZeit University, BirZeit, Palestinian Territory
2Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA
3Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA
4Child Institute, Al Quds University -Gaza Branch, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Salwa G Massad: salwamassad/at/yahoo.com; FJ Nieto: fjnieto/at/wisc.edu; Mari Palta: mpalta/at/wisc.edu; Maureen Smith: maureensmith/at/wisc.edu; Roseanne Clark: rclark/at/wisc.edu; Abdel-Aziz Thabet: abdelazizth/at/yahoo.com
Received August 8, 2011; Revised December 15, 2011; Accepted January 11, 2012.
Abstract
Background
The authors examined factors associated with nutritional resilience/vulnerability among preschoolers in the Gaza Strip in 2007, where political violence and deprivation are widespread.
Methods
This cross-sectional study was carried out in 2007 using random sampling of kindergartens in order to select 350 preschoolers. Binary logistic regression was used to compare resilient (adequate nutrition) and vulnerable (stunted) groups with those with moderate nutrition.
Results
Approximately 37% of the subjects demonstrated nutritional resilience and 15% were vulnerable. Factors associated with nutritional resilience were child younger age, normal birth weight, actively hand- or spoon-feeding when the child was below two years, and residential stability in the past two years. The only factor associated with nutritional vulnerability was lower total score on the mother's General Health Questionnaire, which we interpret as a marker of maternal mental health.
Conclusions
Children with low-birth weight and older children had worse nutritional resiliency outcomes. Further, poorer outcomes for children were associated with lower maternal mental health status, as well as increased family residential instability. Our results add to the large literature on the pervasive effects of violence and instability on children and underscore the need for resources for early intervention and for the urgent resolution of the Palestinian and other armed conflicts.
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