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A startlingly high number of teenage students in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro were found to have stunted growth, according to a report published Friday in the Marshall Islands Journal on a recently released study on the health status of elementary and middle school children.
The study showed that 39 of 90 students aged 13 and up who were checked had stunted growth. The 43 percent rate of stunting among teenage students in Majuro middle schools was three times higher than the rates among younger students, suggesting nutritional intake deteriorates with age in the urban center.
This health survey follows on a 2017 study conducted jointly by the United Nations Children’s organization or UNICEF and the Ministry of Health that reported a 35 percent rate of stunting among children in the zero to five age group. The 2017 study raised worry not only about poor physical growth but impact on cognitive development in young children. The World Bank responded to a Marshall Islands request for help with a $13 million early childhood development initiative that launched recently.
The recent health study looked at 3,148 children from both public and private schools in Majuro. A total of 2,398 public school students were checked, while 750 from private schools were screened.
“The overall rate of stunting was 13.2 percent,” said the report on the study. This was significantly lower than the 2017 report. But the recent study did not evaluate children younger than kindergarten age, the focus of the 2017 health study.
Students 13 years and up not only showed a much higher rate of stunting, a higher percentage were underweight than younger students: 6.7 percent of teenage students were underweight, double that of younger students.
The report said there was little difference between boys and girls when it came to stunting, with 13.6 percent of boys and 12.7 percent of girls showing stunted growth. Similarly, stunting among public and private school students was at a similar level, with 13.4 percent of the students in public schools showing stunted growth and 12.4 percent in private schools with stunted growth. There were fewer underweight private school students (1.3 percent) than public schools’ students (4 percent), while a higher percentage of private school students were overweight or obese compared to their public-school counterparts, 25.1 percent to 18.6 percent, respectively.
Poor nutrition among a sizable portion of children in the Marshall Islands has been documented in repeated surveys since the late 1980s by the Ministry of Health and other organisations....
SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS
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