Malnutrition is still highly prevalent in developing countries. Schoolchildren may also be at high nutritional risk, not only under-five children. However, their nutritional status is poorly documented, particularly in urban areas. The paucity of information hinders the development of relevant nutrition programs for schoolchildren. The aim of this study carried out in Ouagadougou was to assess the nutritional status of schoolchildren attending public and private schools.
The study was carried out to provide baseline data for the implementation and evaluation of the Nutrition Friendly School Initiative of WHO. Six intervention schools and six matched control schools were selected and a sample of 649 schoolchildren (48% boys) aged 7-14 years old from 8 public and 4 private schools were studied. Anthropometric and haemoglobin measurements, along with thyroid palpation, were performed. Serum retinol was measured in a random sub-sample of children (N = 173). WHO criteria were used to assess nutritional status. Chi square and independent t-test were used for proportions and mean comparisons between groups.
Mean age of the children (48% boys) was 11.5 ± 1.2 years. Micronutrient malnutrition was highly prevalent, with 38.7% low serum retinol and 40.4% anaemia. The prevalence of stunting was 8.8% and that of thinness, 13.7%. The prevalence of anaemia (p = 0.001) and vitamin A deficiency (p < 0.001) was significantly higher in public than private schools. Goitre was not detected. Overweight/obesity was low (2.3%) and affected significantly more children in private schools (p = 0.009) and younger children (7-9 y) (p < 0.05). Thinness and stunting were significantly higher in peri-urban compared to urban schools (p < 0.05 and p = 0.004 respectively). Almost 15% of the children presented at least two nutritional deficiencies.
This study shows that malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are also widely prevalent in schoolchildren in cities, and it underlines the need for nutrition interventions to target them.