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Estimating the Burden of Child Undernutrition for Smaller Electoral Units in India
Authors: Julie Kim, Yuning Liu, Weiyu Wang, Jeffrey C. Blossom, Laxmi Kant Dwivedi, K. S. James, Rakesh Sarwal, Rockli Kim, and S. V. Subramanian
Source: JAMA Network Open, Volume 4, issue 4; DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.29416
Topic(s): Child health
Child height
Country: Asia
Published: OCT 2021
Abstract: Importance: Geographic targeting of public health interventions is needed in resource-constrained developing countries. Objective: To develop methods for estimating health and development indicators across micropolicy units, using assembly constituencies (ACs) in India as an example. Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study included children younger than 5 years who participated in the fourth National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4), conducted between January 2015 and December 2016. Participants lived in 36 states and union territories and 640 districts in India. Children who had valid weight and height measures were selected for stunting, underweight, and wasting analysis, and children between age 6 and 59 months with valid blood hemoglobin concentration levels were included in the anemia analysis sample. The analysis was performed between February 1 and August 15, 2020. Exposures: A total of 3940 ACs were identified from the geographic location of primary sampling units in which the children's households were surveyed in NFHS-4. Main outcomes and measures: Stunting, underweight, and wasting were defined according to the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards. Anemia was defined as blood hemoglobin concentration less than 11.0 g/dL. Results: The main analytic sample included 222 172 children (mean [SD] age, 30.03 [17.01] months; 114 902 [51.72%] boys) from 3940 ACs in the stunting, underweight, and wasting analysis and 215 593 children (mean [SD] age, 32.63 [15.47] months; 112 259 [52.07%] boys) from 3941 ACs in the anemia analysis. The burden of child undernutrition varied substantially across ACs: from 18.02% to 60.94% for stunting, with a median (IQR) of 35.56% (29.82%-42.42%); from 10.40% to 63.24% for underweight, with a median (IQR) of 32.82% (25.50%-40.96%); from 5.56% to 39.91% for wasting, with a median (IQR) of 19.91% (15.70%-24.27%); and from 18.63% to 83.05% for anemia, with a median (IQR) of 55.74% (48.41%-63.01%). The degree of inequality within states varied across states; those with high stunting, underweight, and wasting prevalence tended to have high levels of inequality. For example, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Karnataka had high mean AC-level prevalence of child stunting (Uttar Pradesh, 45.29%; Jharkhand, 43.76%; Karnataka, 39.77%) and also large SDs (Uttar Pradesh, 6.90; Jharkhand, 6.02; Karnataka, 6.72). The Moran I indices ranged from 0.25 to 0.80, indicating varying levels of spatial autocorrelation in child undernutrition across the states in India. No substantial difference in AC-level child undernutrition prevalence was found after adjusting for possible random displacement of geographic location data. Conclusions and relevance: In this cross-sectional study, substantial inequality in child undernutrition was found across ACs in India, suggesting the importance of considering local electoral units in designing targeted interventions. The methods presented in this paper can be further applied to measuring health and development indicators in small electoral units for enhanced geographic precision of public health data in developing countries.