Correlates of child malnutrition in Kenya
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Child Malnutrition continues to be a major health burden in developing countries and is argued to be the most important risk factor for illness and death, particularly affecting hundreds of millions of young children globally. While infection in turn has an adverse bearing on nutritional status this paper basically focuses on the role of malnutrition on morbidity only. Although malnutrition may be an important cause of morbidity in many diseases, this study was restricted to the three major causes of death; malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. The objective of this paper is to understand the correlates of child malnutrition and further establish whether malnutrition is associated with morbidity in Kenya. It is postulated that decreased immunity caused by elevated malnutrition is one of the reasons for increase in morbidity from infections. The observations have important implications for conceptualizing the relationships among malnutrition and morbidity; and planning actions to improve child health and survival in Kenya. The data for this study was sourced from the Kenya Demographic and Health survey (KDHS) 2003, a nationwide survey that was undertaken to monitor the progress in health and population indicators. This study uses bivariate analysis to establish existence of differentials in the correlates of malnutrition and also in disease incidence. Multivariate analysis was used to establish the net effect of the correlates of malnutrition and the effect of malnutrition on morbidity. The results of this study are consistent with earlier studies and indicate that malnutrition is an outcome of several factors and that malnutrition is positively correlated to malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infection (ARl). Poverty (proxied by wealth index), maternal literacy, region of residence and sex of the child were found to be the major contributory factors for malnutrition. It is therefore recommended that improving the nutritional status of populations would help to reduce morbidity from diarrhea l, malaria and ARl diseases simultaneously. This can be achieved through proper targeting of the already identified correlates of malnutrition.