Changes in the prevalence of growth stunting in South African children

Stunting is a type of poor physical growth and a chronic form of malnutrition.

The causes of stunting are mainly associated with households’ low socio-economic status and food insecurity, repeated illnesses in infants and maternal health before, during and after pregnancy.

Being stunted has also been associated with delayed cognitive development, impaired physical growth, lower productivity, and a greater risk of poor health.

Redi Tlhabi spoke with Dr Rihlat Said Mohammed, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of the Witwatersrand.

According to Mohammed, stunting in children needs to be identified as early as possible to reduce the effects on growth and development.

It should be identified sooner than the first three years of age. It should be identified as early as pregnancy. 19% of South African children between zero and six years of age and 1 in 4 children between the ages of zero and three are affected by stunting.

Dr Rihlat Said Mohammed, child development expert

Scientists at the University of Cape Town and Wits University have recently published a study in the BMC Public Health journal where they investigated the changes in the prevalence of stunting in South Africa over 40 years from 1970 to 2013.

The findings revealed that stunting is higher in children under three years of age which is a critical period for child development and growth.

The results also showed that the prevalence of stunting in South Africa has been between 20-30% for the past 20 years despite the move in 1996 to implement the Integrated Nutrition Programme to combat the prevalence of early life malnutrition.

Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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