Aims: Survey the health of young children residing in Russian orphanages.
Methods: Retrospective chart review of all 193 'healthy' young children (105M:88F, age range 2-72 months) residing in orphanages in Murmansk, Russia.
Results: Mothers of these institutionalized children had complex histories including chronic health problems (38%), use of tobacco (41%), alcohol (39%) and illicit drugs (7%). Frequent diagnoses of the children included rickets (21%), foetal alcohol syndrome (10%), anemia (6%), developmental delay (11% mild, 25% moderate, 28% severe), behavioural problems (60%) and 'perinatal encephalopathy' (46%<1 year of age). At orphanage entry, growth delays were common (underweight 34%, short stature 25%, microcephaly 34%). During orphanage residence, height z scores further decreased (p=0.01), but head circumference improved (p<0.0001, paired t-tests). Head circumferences increased significantly in 62% of microcephalic children. Smaller children (z score<-2) at entry exhibited more rapid growth (z score/month) for weight (+0.24 vs. -0.12, p=0.04), height (+0.81 vs. -0.65, p=0.0001), and head circumference (+1.02 vs. -0.10, p=0.0004). Growth correlated with child developmental status.
Conclusions: Young institutionalized children in Murmansk have complex medical status, social histories and frequent growth and developmental delays. Anthropometric measurements-particularly head circumference-improved during orphanage residence in children who entered with more severe growth delays.