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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title The influence of sex, age and season on child growth in Ossu sub-district, Timor Leste, 2009
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Despite a recent decline in child mortality in Timor-Leste, the prevalence of child undernutrition remains
high. Undernutrition negatively impacts children’s growth, cognitive and social development and has long
term consequences for adult disease risk and economic productivity (Victora 2008; Dewey and Begum
2011; Adair et al 2013). Child nutrition is a result of food availability and parental care practices and the
broader social, economic and environmental conditions that influence these factors (United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2013). We study child growth as a function of family composition, resources
and location within four local communities in the sub-district of Ossu, Viqueque district.
Anthropometric measures of height and weight provide useful information about a child’s present
and past nutritional status. Height for age indicates prior long-term nutrition with inadequate height for age
(stunting) reflecting chronic undernutrition from an early age. In contrast weight for height, expressed as
body mass index (BMI), reflects a child’s current nutritional state (Waterlow et al 1977; de Onis 2001,
p75). Inadequate weight for height (wasting) is a sign of acute undernutrition and is associated with a
significantly elevated mortality risk (UNICEF 2013). Weight for age is a good indicator of general
undernutrition and is useful for assessing young children in cross sectional studies (Waterlow et al 1977).
The most recent Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey (National Statistics Directorate (NSD),
Ministry of Finance and ICF Macro 2010) reports prevalence rates of 58% for stunting6 and 19% for
wasting7 amongst children younger than 5 years.

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