Effect of wealth inequality on chronic under-nutrition in Cambodian children

J Health Popul Nutr. 2006 Mar;24(1):89-99.


The problems of food insecurity and under-nutrition remain particularly severe in countries recovering from recent wars or civil unrest, where improvements in economic conditions have tended to benefit the advantaged groups and resulted in widespread inequalities in health. Using information on 3235 children aged 0-59 month(s) included in the 2000 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, this study examined how economic inequality was associated with inequalities in chronic childhood under-nutrition. An under-nourished (stunted) child was defined as having his/her height-for-age more than two standard deviations below the reference median. Household wealth status was measured by an index based on household ownership of durable assets. Binary and multinomial logistic regressions were used for estimating the effects of household wealth status on moderate and severe stunting. The results indicated that children in the poorest 20% households were more than twice as likely to suffer from stunting as children in the richest 20% households (odds ratio [OR]=2.54; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.91-3.39). Adjusting for child's age, sex, birth order, and duration of breastfeeding; age of mother at childbirth, body mass index, and education; and household access to safe drinking-water, hygienic toilet facility, residence, and geographic region made little difference to this effect (OR=2.05; 95% CI 1.28-3.28). The adjusted effect of wealth status was somewhat stronger on severe stunting (relative risk ratio [RRR]=2.26; 95% CI 1.22-4.18) than on moderate stunting (RRR=1.89; 95% CI 1.12-3.20). The study concludes that wealth inequality is strongly associated with chronic childhood under-nutrition and emphasizes that reducing poverty and making services more accessible to the poor will be key to improving the health and nutritional status of children in Cambodia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cambodia / epidemiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poverty*
  • Socioeconomic Factors