National Prevalence of Childhood Growth Stunting

Zinc deficiency is a common limiting factor to adequate child growth in developing country settings. A meta-analysis of 25 studies using a randomized, placebo-controlled design, which measured change in linear growth of children following zinc supplementation for at least 2 months, indicated that supplemental zinc had an overall, positive effect on linear growth. This meta-analysis also demonstrated that a low group mean index of child height-for-age (i.e., 1.58 SD below the reference median for height-for-age) predicts an improvement in linear growth in response to supplemental zinc. Therefore, a high prevalence of childhood growth stunting in a population represents an elevated risk of zinc deficiency. The World Health Organization suggests that when the prevalence of children with height-for-age of 2 SD below the reference median is 20% or higher, childhood growth stunting should be considered a problem of public health concern; this prevalence may likewise be indicative of an elevated risk of zinc deficiency. The World Health Organization maintains a global database on the prevalence of low height-for-age at the national and subnational level for a large number of countries.

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