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A health and nutritional profile of rural school children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Jinabhai CC; Taylor M; Coutsoudis A; Coovadia HM; Tomkins AM; Sullivan KR
Ann Trop Paediatr 2001 Mar;21(1):50-8

A community-based cross-sectional study was undertaken to measure anthropometric indices, micronutrient status and prevalence of parasite infections in 579 rural South African primary school children. Eleven schools were selected randomly from a Magisterial District in southern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). In each school, all pupils aged between 8 and 10 years were selected. The following outcome measures were obtained: anthropometric--height for age, weight for age and body mass index; micronutrient status--anaemia, serum ferritin and vitamin A; and prevalence of parasite infections--Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and Schistosoma haematobium. The observed prevalences were: stunting 7.3%, underweight for age 0.7%, and obesity 3.1%; anaemia 16.5% (Hb < 12 g/dl), vitamin A deficiency 34.7% (serum retinol < 20 micrograms/dl) and 28.1% with reduced serum ferritin (< 12 ng/ml); Trichuris trichiura 53.9%, Ascaris lumbricoides 27.3% and Schistosoma haematobium 24.5%. We conclude that micronutrient deficiency, parasitic infestations and stunting remain significant problems among school-aged children in South Africa. Micronutrient supplementation and de-worming provide opportunities for school-based health promotion and primary health care interventions, and might produce significant health and educational benefits.

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