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The goal of the present study was to examine the influence of community environment on the nutritional status (weight-for-age and height-for-age) of children (aged 0–59 months) in Bangladesh. In addition, we tested the association between specific characteristics of community environments and child nutritional status.
The data are from the nationally representative 2004 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey.
Respondents were ever-married women (aged 15–49 years) and their children (n 5731), residing in 361 communities. Child nutritional outcomes are physical measurements of weight-for-age and height-for-age in sd units. We considered the following attributes of community environments potentially related to child nutrition: (i) community water and sanitation infrastructure; (ii) availability of community health and education services; (iii) community employment and social participation; and (iv) education level of the community.
Multilevel regression analysis showed that the spatial distribution of maternal and child covariates did not entirely explain the between-community variation in child nutritional status. The education level of the community emerged as the strongest community-level predictor of child height-for-age (highest v. lowest tertile, β = 0·18 (se 0·07)) and weight-for-age (highest v. lowest tertile, β = 0·21 (se 0·06)). In the height-for-age model, community employment and social participation also emerged as being statistically significant (highest v. lowest tertile, β = 0·13 (se = 0·06)).
The community environment influences child nutrition in Bangladesh, and maternal- and child-level covariates may fail to capture the entire influence of communities. Interventions to reduce child undernutrition in developing countries should take into consideration the wider community context.
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