n South African Journal of Child Health - The prevalence of malnutrition in children admitted to a general paediatric ward at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital : a cross-sectional survey : research

Volume 8, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1994-3032
  • E-ISSN: 1999-7671



The prevalence of malnutrition, an important contributor to childhood mortality, is poorly described in hospitalised South African (SA) children, many of whom are HIV-exposed or HIV-infected.

To describe the prevalence of malnutrition in infants and children <14 years of age admitted to a general paediatric ward at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto, SA, and to compare the nutritional status of infants <18 months of age who were HIV-unexposed, HIV-exposed but uninfected (HEU) or HIV-infected.
A cross-sectional nutritional survey was conducted on 222 admitted children. A total of 139 infants were <18 months of age.
Stunting was the most common form of malnutrition (40.5%), followed by underweight-for-age (33.3%) and wasting (23.4%). Of 175 children aged <5 years, 22 (12.6%) were severely wasted. Twenty-four (10.8%) children were HIV-infected: 6 children were <18 months, 3 were ≥18 months but < 5 years and 15 children were ≥5 years. For children ≤18 months, HEU children (=56) were significantly more underweight and stunted than their HIV-unexposed peers (=77); weight-for-age and height-for-age median z-scores for these groups were -1.81 v. -0.63 (=0.0038) and -2.51 v. -0.51 (=0.004), respectively.
Malnutrition is prevalent in hospitalised children, with stunting being the most common form. The prevalence of HIV-infection is decreasing in younger children, but HEU children, who constitute a large proportion of total hospital admissions, have high rates of malnutrition, especially stunting.

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