Effects and determinants of mild underweight among preschool children across countries and over time
Research on malnutrition typically focuses on extreme cases which pose the greatest individual health risks, but researchers comparing populations might find that variation in mild malnutrition conveys valuable information about public health. This paper constructs and compares new measures of the prevalence, depth and severity of both mild and extreme underweight in children from three months to three years of age, as measured by 130 DHS surveys for 53 countries over a period from 1986 to 2006. We find that variance in mild underweight has a larger and more robust correlation with child mortality than variance in severe underweight, and is itself more closely correlated with local agricultural output, over a wide range of regression specifications. We conclude that the prevalence of mild underweight deserves greater attention as a useful signal of changing public health conditions among preschool children in developing countries.
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