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Dataset Open Access

Socioeconomic impacts on Andean adolescents' growth: variation between households, between communities, and over time

Vitzthum, Virginia J.; Thornburg, Jonathan; McDade, Thomas


We evaluated potential socioeconomic contributors to variation in Andean adolescents' growth between households within a peri-urban community undergoing rapid demographic and economic change, between different community types (rural, peri-urban, urban), and over time. Because growth monitoring is widely used for assessing community needs and progress, we compared the prevalences of stunting, underweight, and overweight estimated by three different growth references.


Alteños' height averaged ∼0.8SD/∼0.6SD/∼2SDs greater than adolescents' height in urban and rural communities measured in 1983/1998/1977, respectively. Overweight prevalence was comparable to the WHO, and lower than MESA and Puno, references. Stunting was 8.5/2.5/0.5 times WHO/MESA/Puno samples, respectively. Female Alteños' growth was positively associated with household and maternal income indices.


Both peri-urban conditions and temporal trends contributed to gains in Alteños' growth. Rural out-migration can alleviate migrants' poverty, partly because of more diverse economic options in urbanized communities, especially for women. Nonetheless, Alteños averaged below WHO and MESA height and weight medians. Evolved biological adaptations to environmental challenges, and the consequent variability in growth trajectories, favors using multiple growth references. Growth monitoring should be informed by community- and household-level studies to detect and understand local factors causing or alleviating health disparities. Lay Summary Andean adolescents exhibited elevated rates of stunting; their height varied with socioeconomic status within and between high-altitude communities. Unlike some lowland populations, the prevalence of overweight/obesity was not elevated. Population-specific growth assessments and targeted interventions (e.g., maternal education and employment) are likely to help alleviate disparities in Andean children's growth.

Funding provided by: National Science Foundation
Crossref Funder Registry ID: http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000001
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