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Study finds no link between economic growth and a fall in childhood undernutrition

The authors suggest that this could be due to funds being misspent.

Image: child with bowl via Shutterstock

THERE IS LITTLE or no link between economic growth and reduced rates of undernutrition in children, a study has found.

A number of reasons have been suggested, such as an unequal spread of wealth, increases in household income not being spent correctly, or a lack of investment in public services.

However, the authors of the report stress that it does not suggest “that economic development is not important in a general sense”.

“Trickle-down effects”

“[It] cautions policymakers about relying solely on the trickle-down effects of economic growth on child nutrition,” lead author Professor Sebastian Vollmer, from the University of Göttingen, said.

The study published in The Lancet Global Health analysed 121 surveys of health and demographics, conducted between 1990 and 2011.

These were across 36 low- and middle-income countries across the world, such as Armenia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Uganda.

It found that at an individual level a 5 per cent rise in Gross Domestic Product, or the total value of all goods and services produced in a country and something not seen in Ireland since 2008, was associated with:

  • A 0.4 per cent decrease in the odds of being stunted
  • A 1.1 per cent decrease in the odds of being underweight
  • A 1.7 per cent decrease in the odds of being wasted.

Abhijeet Singh from the University of Oxford noted that “public health and nutritional interventions can have an important role in reducing child undernutrition”.

Although economic growth alone might not accomplish an end to child undernutrition, proven interventions targeted at nutrition might.

Malnutrition contributes to the death of more than 2.6 million children around the world each year.

Read: NUI Galway develops vitamin-rich crop to combat malnutrition in Africa >

More: Indian malnutrition fund used to fix buses >

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