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To examine the potential of anthropometry as a tool to measure gender discrimination, with particular attention to the WHO growth standards.
Surveillance data collected from 1990 to 1999 were analysed. Height-for-age Z-scores were calculated using three norms: the WHO standards, the 1978 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reference and the 1990 British growth reference (UK90).
Boys and girls aged 6–59 months (n 504 358).
The three sets of growth curves provided conflicting pictures of the relative growth of girls and boys by age and over time. Conclusions on sex differences in growth depended also on the method used to analyse the curves, be it according to the shape or the relative position of the sex-specific curves. The shapes of the WHO-generated curves uniquely implied that Bangladeshi girls faltered faster or caught up slower than boys throughout their pre-school years, a finding consistent with the literature. In contrast, analysis of the relative position of the curves suggested that girls had higher WHO Z-scores than boys below 24 months of age.
Further research is needed to help establish whether and how the WHO international standards can measure gender discrimination in practice, which continues to be a serious problem in many parts of the world.
It is hypothesised that mothers' social networks can positively affect child nutrition through the sharing of health knowledge and other resources. The present study describes the composition of mothers' networks, examines their association with child nutrition, and assesses whether health knowledge is shared within networks.
Design and setting
Cross-sectional data for mothers of young children from Andhra Pradesh (south India) were combined with existing data from the Young Lives study, in which the mothers were participating (n = 282).
The composition of social networks varied between urban and rural areas, with urban networks being larger, more female, more literate and with a greater proportion of members living outside the household and being non-family. There was a positive association between child's height-for-age Z-score and mother's network size and network literacy rate. The association with network literacy was stronger among the poorest households. Women commonly reported seeking or receiving health advice from network members.
Big and literate social networks are associated with better child nutrition, especially among the poor. The dissemination of health knowledge between network members is a plausible way in which social networks benefit child nutrition in India. Further research into the underlying mechanisms is necessary to inform the development of interventions that channel health information through word of mouth to the most excluded and vulnerable families.
To assess the effect on the haemoglobin concentrations of schoolchildren of weekly iron tablets administered by teachers.
Sixty schools were randomly assigned to two groups: in 30 schools children were given weekly for 10 weeks a tablet providing 65 mg of iron and 0.25 mg of folic acid; in the other 30 schools no iron tablets were given. All children were dewormed and given vitamin A before the study began. The haemoglobin concentration of up to 20 randomly selected children in each school was estimated before and 2 weeks after the end of treatment.
Rural community schools in Kolondieba district of Mali.
Some 1113 schoolchildren aged 6–19 years with a mean of 11.4 years.
The haemoglobin concentration of treated children rose on average by 1.8 g l-1 (P < 0.001) and the prevalence of anaemia fell by 8.2% (P < 0.001); in untreated children the haemoglobin concentration fell by an average of -2.7 g l-1 (P < 0.001) and the prevalence of anaemia rose by 9.4% (P < 0.001). The fall in haemoglobin concentration among untreated girls of -4.0 g l-1 was greater than in untreated boys (-0.3 g l-1, P < 0.001).
Weekly iron tablets given by teachers prevented a general fall in the haemoglobin concentrations of untreated children, and led to a small but statistically significant rise among treated children (P < 0.001). Young children benefited more than children aged ≥12 years, and girls benefited more than boys.
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