Understanding the child mortality decline in Guinea-Bissau: the role of population-level nutritional status measured by mid-upper arm circumference

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  • Rieckmann, Andreas
  • Ane Bærent Fisker
  • Christian Bjerregård Øland
  • Sebastian Nielsen
  • Rasmus Wibaek
  • Tina Bonde Sørensen
  • Cesário Lourenço Martins
  • Christine Stabell Benn
  • Peter Aaby

BACKGROUND: Malnutrition is considered an important contributing factor to child mortality, and the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) is regarded as one of the better anthropometric predictors of child mortality. We explored whether the decline in child mortality over recent decades could be explained by changes in children's MUAC.

METHODS: This prospective study analysed individual-level data from 47 731 children from the capital of Guinea-Bissau followed from 3 months until 36 months of age over 2003 to 2016. We used standardization to compare the mortality rate as if only the MUAC distribution had changed between an early period (2003-05) and a late period (2014-16). We adjusted the analyses for age, sex, socioeconomic-related possessions and maternal education.

RESULTS: A total of 949 deaths were included in the analysis. The adjusted mortality rate was 18.9 [95% confidence interval (CI) 14.3-23.3] deaths per 1000 person-years (pyrs) in the early period and declined to 4.4 (95% CI 2.9-6.0) deaths per 1000 pyrs in the late period, a 77% (95% CI 71-83%) reduction in the mortality rate. At all calendar years, the MUAC distribution in the population was close to the WHO reference population. MUAC below -1 z-score was associated with increased child mortality. The change in MUAC distribution from the early period to the late period (in the early period mortality standardization) corresponded to 1.5 (95% CI 1.0-2.2) fewer deaths per 1000 pyrs, equivalent to 11% (95% CI 7-14%) of the observed change in child mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: From 2003 to 2016, child mortality in urban Guinea-Bissau declined considerably but, though a low MUAC was associated with increased mortality, changes in the MUAC distribution in the population explained little of the decline. Understanding the driving factors of child mortality decline can help scope tomorrow's interventions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1522–1532
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.

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