Long term impact of child malnutrition on adulthood
Introduction This is a proposal to undertake a study of the long-term impact of child malnutrition on adulthood. Poor nutrition and health, whether in their mildest or severest forms, result in a reduction in overall well-being and quality of life. The most vulnerable to malnutrition are children. At such an early stage, children’s immune systems are still developing and are not fully able to fight disease and infection. The short-term effects of child malnutrition are well documented in medical as well as economic literature. Majority of households in developing countries are characterised by poor health environments, where it is easy for children and adults to fall prey to infectious and communicable diseases. Such diseases contribute to malnutrition through a wide range of mechanisms, which include loss of appetite and reduced capacity to absorb nutrients. It is generally accepted that children who are malnourished ie underweight or stunted are at greater risk for childhood morbidity and mortality (WHO 1995). Malnourishment also undermines educational attainment and productivity with adverse implications for income, economic growth and human development (Gragnolati et al 2005). Bearing this in mind, this study will explore the longterm impact of child malnutrition – whether malnourishment during childhood affects an individual’s economic and social outcomes as an adult. This study will focus on the how the socio-economic outcomes such as educational attainment, health status, productivity and income of an adult are affected by her being malnourished as a child. This would help establish an explicit relationship between child malnutrition and subsequent adult outcomes as well as provide a new way of looking into the nutrition- poverty nexus: is it possible for (poor) malnourished children to escape poverty as adults?
Rationale for the study The importance of good nutrition cannot be disputed. Proper nutrition is necessary for the physical well being of an individual as it helps the human body to grow and provides energy to do work. Improper nutrition or malnutrition manifests itself in two forms - overnutrition (for example, obesity) and undernutrition (for example, wasting). Without proper nutrition, an individual is susceptible to diseases such as scurvy, beri beri, metabolic syndrome as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This harms one’s overall quality of life. The problem is more acute for children. Of course, they are more susceptible to disease owing to relatively poorly developed immune systems. But there is more to this– it points to the fact that a child’s fundamental right to adequate food and a healthy life is being violated. In 1990, the World Summit for Children took up the task to reduce child malnutrition and improve child health, among several other goals that were to improve the lives of children, especially those in developing countries. Two decades later, life for tens of millions of African children, in particular, remains difficult, dangerous and tragically short. Chronic malnutrition remains widespread in Africa and the target of a 50 per cent reduction of malnutrition in children under the age of five is far from reach. Nutritional interventions have received little attention in this continent during the 1990s, especially in Tanzania, where child malnourishment rates are one of the lowest in the world. UNICEF figures indicate that by 2000, almost 43 per cent of children were stunted and 31 per cent were underweight. Many children suffered from severe micronutrient deficiency. The deficiency of vitamin A alone accounts for one in seven deaths of children under the age of five years. The situation has not improved since then. Tanzania’s national demographic and health survey (2005) showed that there were approximately 40,000 severely malnourished children, 450,000 moderately wasted children and 2.4 million chronically malnourished...
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