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To examine urban–rural disparity in childhood stunting, wasting and malnutrition at national and subnational levels in Chinese primary-school children in 2010 and 2014.
Data were obtained from two nationwide cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2010 and 2014. Malnutrition was classified using the Chinese national ‘Screening Standard for Malnutrition of Children’.
All twenty-seven mainland provinces and four municipalities of mainland China.
Children aged 7–12 years (n 215 214; 107 741 in 2010 and 107 473 in 2014) from thirty-one provinces.
Stunting, wasting and malnutrition prevalence were 1·9, 12·3 and 13·7 % in 2010, but decreased to 1·0, 9·4 and 10·2 % in 2014, respectively. The prevalence of stunting, wasting and malnutrition in both urban and rural children was higher in western provinces, while lower in eastern provinces. Although the prevalence of wasting and malnutrition was higher in rural children than their urban counterparts, the urban–rural disparity in both wasting and malnutrition decreased from 2010 to 2014 (prevalence OR: wasting, 1·35 to 1·16; malnutrition, 1·50 to 1·27). A reversal occurred in 2014 in several eastern provinces where the prevalence of wasting and malnutrition in urban children surpassed their rural peers. The urban–rural disparity was larger in western provinces than eastern provinces.
The shrinking urban–rural disparity and the reversal in wasting and malnutrition suggest that the malnutrition situation has improved during the post-crisis period, especially in the western provinces. Region-specific policies and interventions can be useful to sustainably mitigate malnutrition in Chinese children, especially in rural areas and the western provinces.