Determinants of Anemia Among Young Children in Rural India
Objective: More than 75% of Indian toddlers are anemic. Data on factors associated with anemia in India are limited. The objective of this study was to determine biological, nutritional, and socioeconomic risk factors for anemia in this vulnerable age group.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of children aged 12 to 23 months in 2 rural districts of Karnataka, India. Children were excluded if they were unwell or had received a blood transfusion. Hemoglobin, ferritin, folate, vitamin B12, retinol-binding protein, and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were determined. Children were also tested for hemoglobinopathy, malaria infection, and hookworm infestation. Anthropometric measurements, nutritional intake, family wealth, and food security were recorded. In addition, maternal hemoglobin level was measured.
Results: Anemia (hemoglobin level < 11.0 g/dL) was detected in 75.3% of the 401 children sampled. Anemia was associated with iron deficiency (low ferritin level), maternal anemia, and food insecurity. Children's ferritin levels were directly associated with their iron intake and CRP levels and with maternal hemoglobin level and inversely associated with continued breastfeeding and the child's energy intake. A multivariate model for the child's hemoglobin level revealed associations with log(ferritin level) (coefficient: 1.20; P < .001), folate level (0.05; P < .01), maternal hemoglobin level (0.16; P < .001), family wealth index (0.02; P < .05), child's age (0.05 per month; P < .005), hemoglobinopathy (−1.51; P < .001), CRP level (−0.18; P < .001), and male gender (−0.38; P < .05). Wealth index and food insecurity could be interchanged in this model.
Conclusions: Hemoglobin level was primarily associated with iron status in these Indian toddlers; however, maternal hemoglobin level, family wealth, and food insecurity were also important factors. Strategies for minimizing childhood anemia must include optimized iron intake but should simultaneously address maternal anemia, poverty, and food insecurity.
- Accepted March 26, 2010.
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics