Child overweight and undernutrition in Thailand: Is there an urban effect?

Type Journal Article - Social Science & Medicine
Title Child overweight and undernutrition in Thailand: Is there an urban effect?
Volume 72
Issue 9
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 1420-1428
An urban advantage in terms of lower risk of child undernutrition has been observed in many developing
countries, but child obesity is often more prevalent in urban than rural areas. This study aimed to assess
whether urbanerural disparities in undernutrition and obesity were attributable to concentrations of
socioeconomically advantaged children into urban communities or to specific aspects of the urban
environment. A sample of 4610 children ages 2e10 years was derived from the 2004 Round of the
Kanchanaburi Demographic Surveillance System, monitoring health and demographic change in the
province of Kanchanaburi, Thailand. We used multi-level logistic regression to model the odds of short
stature, underweight, and obesity for children in 102 communities. Models tested whether child
socioeconomic conditions accounted for urbanerural disparities or if aspects of the social and physical
environment accounted for disparities, adjusting for child characteristics. 27.8% of children were
underweight, while 19.9% had short stature, and 8.3% were obese. Bivariate associations showed urban
residence associated with lower risk of undernutrition and a greater risk of obesity. Urbanerural
disparities in odds of short stature and underweight were accounted for by child socioeconomic characteristics.
Urban residence persisted as a risk factor for obesity after adjusting for child characteristics.
Community wealth concentration, television coverage, and sanitation coverage were independently
associated with greater risk of obesity. Undernutrition was strongly associated with household poverty,
while household affluence and characteristics of the urban environment were associated with odds of
obesity. Further research is needed to characterize how urban environments contribute to children’s
risks of obesity in developing countries.

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