Despite her apparent economic success, India is plagued by a high burden of under-nutrition among children under five. This study was aimed at understanding some of the risk factors for under-nutrition in a region with favourable maternal and child health indicators.
A case control study was carried out among children aged one to five years attending the paediatric outpatient department in six rural health care centres in Udupi taluk of Karnataka in Southern India. A total of 162 children were included in the study, of which 56 were cases. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to interview the caregivers of the children and the nutritional status was graded according to the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) grading of protein-energy malnutrition.
Under-nutrition was associated with illness in the last one month [OR– 4.78 (CI: 1.83 –12.45)], feeding diluted milk [OR–14.26 (CI: 4.65 – 43.68)] and having more than two children with a birth interval ≤2 years [OR– 4.93 (CI: 1.78 – 13.61)]. Lack of exclusive breast feeding, level of education of the caregiver and environmental factors like source of water did not have an association.
Childhood illness, short birth interval and consumption of diluted milk were some of the significant contributory factors noted among this population. Information, Education, Communication (IEC) campaigns alleviating food fads and promoting birth spacing is needed.