Prevalence of malnutrition among rural school children of Brazil

Lara Saad Valadares Santos, Fernanda Lima Fernandes, Flaviano Saad Valadares Santos, Patrícia Gonçalves da Motta, Silvia Bastos Heringer-walther


Introdução: The majority of rural children in Brazil belong to poor families, living from small farms that produce at the subsistence level. Malnutrition and poverty is still common in rural areas of Brazil. However, there are signals that the situation is changing. Brazil's success in cutting poverty seems to have been greater in rural areas than in urban ones.

Objetivos: Assess the nutritional status of school children from rural and urban area of southeast Brazil using the Z-score system recently recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) for classifying malnutrition in children.

Metodologia ou descrição da experiência: Body height and weight were measured in a sample of 1183 Brazilian schoolchildren living in rural (n=535) and urban areas (n=648) of Minas Gerais. Anthropometric measurements were transformed into BMI-for-age Z scores based on WHO standard reference populations using WHO anthro software. Underweight (UnderW) was considered as BMI <-2 z-score.

Resultados: As expected rural schoolchildren have a higher risk for thinness: In Rural children (aged 5-10 years old) the prevalence of UnderW was 4.8% while URBAN children the prevalence of UnderW was 0.7% (p < .001). In the group aged 11-19 years old, prevalence of UnderW rural and urban was similar (4% vs. 3.7% respectively).In the group of Urban adolescents, we observed an increase of restrictive feeding practices specially in girls.

Conclusões ou hipóteses: These results show an improvement of Underweight rates in our rural community. Since deficient physical growth results in worse health and lower educational achievements during adulthood, the assessment of nutritional status of these children is essential for making progress towards improving overall health in our rural communities.


Malnutrition; WHO BMI Z-Score; Rural Children

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