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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

NESTEL, Penelope; MELARA, Alejandro; ROSADO, Jorge  and  MORA, Jose O.. Vitamin A deficiency and anemia among children 12-71 months old in Honduras. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1999, vol.6, n.1, pp. 34-43. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891999000600005.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) have been recognized as public health problems in Honduras for over 30 years. This paper, based on the 1996 National Micro nutrient Survey on 1 678 children 12–71 months of age, presents the results for vitamin A status and anemia prevalence, as well as the level of vitamin A in sugar at the household level. The results showed that 14% of the children were subclinically vitamin A deficient (plasma retinol < 20 µg/dL) and 32% were at risk of VAD (plasma retinol 20–30 µg/dL). These data indicate that VAD is a moderate public health problem in Honduras. Logistic regression analysis showed that children 12–23 months old living in areas other than the rural south of the country were at greatest risk of subclinical VAD. Infection, indicated by an elevated alpha-1-acid-glycoprotein level, increased the risk of subclinical VAD more than three-fold. Children from households that obtained water from a river, stream, or lake were at twice the risk of subclinical VAD compared with other children. That same doubled risk was found for children from a household with an outside toilet. VAD can be controlled by fortifying sugar. Retinol levels in sugar at the household level were about 50% of those mandated by Honduran law. There appears to be significant leakage of unfortified sugar into the market. This is particularly true in the rural north, where 33% of samples contained no retinol. Overall, 30% of children were anemic (Hb < 11 g/dL). Logistic regression analysis showed that children whose fathers lived with them but who had not attended at least grade 4 of primary school were at 33% greater risk of being anemic. Infection and being underweight increased the risk of being anemic by 51% and 21%, respectively. Many of the anemic children had not been given iron supplements, suggesting health care providers may not be aware that anemia is widespread among young children and/or know how to diagnose it.

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