Fifty children admitted for malnutrition were age matched with 50 admitted for other reasons. These children were more likely to be female (p = 0.003), born low birth weight (p = 0.02), after a short birth interval (p = 0.014) and to be incompletely vaccinated (p < 0.001) than control children, and to be living in rural villages or settlement housing (p < 0.001) with inadequate water supply (p < 0.001) and sanitation (p = 0.037), with overcrowding (p = 0.016) and low household income (p = 0.04). Their parents were more likely to have had no or only rudimentary education than parents of control children [Odds ratio (OR) 3.58 for mothers, 4.12 for fathers]. Parental consumption of alcohol as well as smoking in the mother was more common in the malnourished children. Running water in the house was an independent protective factor (OR 0.23) and the fathers' poor employment status (OR 4.12) an independent risk factor. The solution to malnutrition involves improving community understanding of nutrition and in reducing social inequalities.
Keywords: Papua New Guinea; children; malnutrition; risk factors.
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