Objective: Examine the association between child-level food insecurity and iron status in young children utilizing community-based data from the Children's Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program (C-SNAP).
Methods: A cross-sectional sample of caregivers of children < or =36 months of age utilizing emergency department (ED) services were interviewed between 6/96-5/01. Caregiver interviews, which included questions on child-level food security, were linked to a primary clinic database containing hemoglobin, red blood cell distribution width, mean corpuscular volume, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin and lead values. Children a priori at-risk for anemia: birthweight < or =2500 g, with HIV/AIDS, sickle cell disease, or lead values > or =10.0 ug/dL, and children < or =6 months of age were excluded from the analysis. Only laboratory tests 365 days prior or 90 days after interview were examined. Iron status was classified in four mutually exclusive categories: 1) Iron Sufficient-No Anemia (ISNA), 2) Anemia (without iron deficiency), 3) Iron Deficient-No Anemia (IDNA), 4) Iron Deficient with Anemia (IDA).
Results: 626 ED interviews linked to laboratory data met the inclusion criteria. Food insecure children were significantly more likely to have IDA compared to food secure children [Adjusted Odds Ratio = 2.4, 95% CI (1.1-5.2), p = 0.02]. There was no association between child food insecurity and anemia without iron deficiency or iron deficiency without anemia.
Conclusion: These findings suggest an association between child level food insecurity and iron deficiency anemia, a clinically important health indicator with known negative cognitive, behavioral and health consequences. Cuts in spending on food assistance programs that address children's food insecurity may lead to adverse health consequences.