The prevalence of malnutrition in children admitted to a general paediatric ward at the Chris Hani Baragwanath academic hospital: a cross sectional survey

Brink, Janine
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Background: The prevalence of malnutrition, an important contributor to childhood mortality, is poorly described in hospitalised South African children, many of whom are HIV–exposed or HIV–infected. Objectives: To describe the prevalence of malnutrition in infants and children under 14 years of age admitted to a general paediatric ward at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto and to compare the nutritional status of infants less than 18 months of age who were HIV–unexposed, HIV exposed but uninfected (HEU) or HIV–infected. Methods: A cross-sectional nutritional survey was conducted on 222 admitted children. One hundred and thirty nine infants were less than 18 months of age. Results: Stunting was the commonest form of malnutrition (40.5%), followed by underweight–for–age (33.3%) and wasting (23.4%). Twenty–two (12.6%) of 175 children aged <5 years were severely wasted. Twenty four (10.8%) children were HIV–infected: 6 children were <18 months, 3 were ≥18 months but less than 5 years and 15 children were ≥5 years. For children ≤18 months, HEU–children (n=56) were significantly more underweight and stunted than their HIV–unexposed peers (n=77); weight-for-age and length-for-age median z-scores -1.81 vs -0.63 (p=0.0038) and -2.51 vs -0.51 (p=0.004) respectively. Conclusion: Malnutrition is prevalent in hospitalised children with stunting being the most common form. The prevalence of HIV–infection is decreasing in younger children but HEU–children, who constitute a large proportion of total hospital admissions, have high rates of malnutrition, especially stunting
This research report is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Medicine in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg August 2015