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Gender inequality linked to child malnutrition and mortality

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Posted March 23, 2016

People in the Western world mostly have resolved gender inequality or at least are heading to the right direction. However, in a big part of the world it is still a big issue. Now scientists from UCL and the University of Cambridge conducted a study, which links child malnutrition and mortality to gender inequality.

Many children in low- and middle-income countries suffer from malnutrition, which could be solved by improving gender equality in the country. Image credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Many children in low- and middle-income countries suffer from malnutrition, which could be solved by improving gender equality in the country. Image credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists analysed data from 96 countries and took into account such factors of gender inequality as the number of women in employment and their levels of education relative to men. It turns out, societal inequality between men and women contribute to rates of child malnutrition and mortality.

Scientists calculate that approximately 1 out of 7 children born every year have low birth-weight. It is over 20 million newborns. Furthermore, 1 out of 4 children become malnourished in first five years of life. Many children die, but even those who are lucky enough to survive later suffer from slow educational progress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other health issues. This new study found that these problems correlate with gender inequality in these countries.

Many countries are implementing policies that should increase the birth-weight, but they mostly focus on economic growth, which, according to scientists, is not ideal. Jonathan Wells, one of the authors of the study, explained: “Although increasing national wealth is widely assumed to be the best way to tackle these problems, recent studies have questioned how effective this is, while economic growth is also linked with burgeoning obesity, diabetes and heart disease in adults. Longitudinal studies are now needed to evaluate the impact of efforts to reduce societal gender inequality”. Economic growth does not necessarily mean that women, mothers of children, will get more money, which means that children may still be malnourished.

This study revealed how societal status of women may affect wellbeing of children. It means that efforts have to be made in order to increase gender equality, especially in low- and middle-income countries. In turn it can be expected that positive changes would lead to major reductions in child malnutrition and mortality.

Source: UCL

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