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Health status of primary schoolchildren in Sri Lanka

Authors:

A Pathmeswaran ,

Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, LK
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R Jayatissa,

Department of Nutrition, Medical Research Institute, Colombo, LK
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S Samarasinghe,

Department of Parasitology, Medical Research Institute, Colombo; 4Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, LK
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A Fernando,

Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, LK
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RP de Silva,

Department of Agricultural Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, LK
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RO Thattil,

Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, LK
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NR de Silva

Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, LK
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Abstract

Objective To assess health status of 9-10-year old school children in Sri Lanka.
Design A cross-sectional, descriptive study. Schools were selected to obtain a sample representative at national and provincial levels and 20 children were randomly selected from Grade 5 classes in each school.
Measurements Children were examined for Bitot's spots and goitre. Height, weight, and visual acuity were measured according to standard procedures. Haemoglobin level was measured using finger-prick blood and a HemoCue® meter. Geohelminth infections were quantified by faecal examination using the modified Kato-Katz technique. Height for age Z-scores (HAZ) and body mass index (BMI) were calculated as indicators of nutritional status.
Results Two thousand five hundred and twenty eight children (1351 boys) from 144 schools (140 state schools and four private schools) were examined. Nationally, 15.5% of children were stunted (HAZ lower than - 2.0 SD); 52.6% were thin (BMI < 5th centile of age- and sex-matched reference population); 3.1% were overweight (BMI > 85th centile); 12.1% were anaemic; 0.3% had Bitot's spots; 3% had a visible or palpable goitre; 4.6% were shortsighted; and 6.9% had one or more soil-transmitted nematode infection. Among children on whom anthropometry, haemoglobin and faecal examinations were all done, 64.6% (1332/2063) were thin, stunted, anaemic or infected with worms. A much higher proportion of children in the Northern and Eastern provinces had health problems when compared to the other provinces.
Conclusions The majority of older primary schoolchildren in Sri Lanka are undernourished. Anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency and soil-transmitted nematode infections affect a much smaller proportion of them.

Key words: Anaemia, goitre, malnutrition, soil-transmitted nematode infection, vision

DOI: 10.4038/cmj.v50i2.1567

Ceylon Medical Journal Vol.50(2) 2005 pp46-50

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4038/cmj.v50i2.1567
How to Cite: Pathmeswaran, A., Jayatissa, R., Samarasinghe, S., Fernando, A., de Silva, R., Thattil, R. and de Silva, N., 2010. Health status of primary schoolchildren in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Medical Journal, 50(2), pp.46–50. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/cmj.v50i2.1567
Published on 03 Feb 2010.
Peer Reviewed

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