March 1997, Volume 3 No. 1

ARTICLE 2

Nutritional assessment of rural villages and estates in Peninsular Malaysia
II. Nutritional status of children aged 18 years and below

Khor Geok Lin1 and Tee E Siong2
1 Department of Nutrition and Community Health, Faculty of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia
2 Division of Human Nutrition, Institute for Medical Research

ABSTRACT
This paper presents the results of anthropometric assessment of 2,364 boys and 2,415 girls aged 18 years and below drawn from the estates and rural community groups engaged in padi farming, rubber planting, coconut cultivation and fishing. The children were mainly Malay, however in the estates, Indians predominated. The results showed that the percentage of boys who have normal weight-for-age, height-for­age and weight-for-height were respectively 69.4%, 68.3% and 88.8%. Among girls, the percentage with normal values for weight-for-age, height-for-age and weight-for-height were 73.8%, 72.6% and 89.5% respectively. This study also showed the persistence of underweight, stunting and wasting amongst children in the study communities. Overall, the prevalence of underweight among boys was 29.8% and for girls 25.5%. The prevalence of stunting was 31.3% for boys and 26.9% for girls, while wasting was found in 9.3% boys and 8.5% girls. By age groups, the prevalence of underweight was lowest among the infants (16.8% for boys and 13.3% for girls), and highest among children aged above 1 to 6 years old (32.6% and 35.9% for boys and girls respectively). Children from the fishing, rubber and padi villages showed a higher prevalence of acute and chronic undernutrition than those from the coconut and the estate communities. In contrast, the mean prevalence of overweight in the five community groups did not exceed 2%. When compared with another peninsula-wide nutritional assessment of poverty villages undertaken in 1979-1983, it is found, over the past decade, that the prevalence of underweight in rural communities appeared to have decreased somewhat while that of stunting showed a more substantial decline. The persistence of current undernutrition has led to the manifestation of children who were too thin for their “non­-stunted” height, thus giving rise to an apparently higher prevalence of wasting as found in this study. The implications of these results are discussed.

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