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Using longitudinal data to understand nutrition and health interactions in rural Gambia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Dec 2019

King's Authors

Abstract

Context: Population-based cohort studies have been pivotal in highlighting numerous nutrition-health interactions, especially in high-income settings. Less research is available from low- and middle-income countries due to the lack of detailed longitudinal data.
Objective: To describe how we have used prospectively collected longitudinal data from The Gambia to explore nutrition-health interactions in a rural sub-Saharan African context.
Methods: Demographic records initiated in 1947, coupled with data on maternal and child health, have been used to explore nutrition-health relationships.
Results: This paper reviews some key findings from this research programme, including our observation of a highly significant association between season of birth and infection-related adult mortality in this context. Additionally, using routine data on childhood anthropometry, we observed that, despite a significant decline in child undernutrition, rates remain unacceptably high, likely reflecting the very high socio-economic threshold required to eliminate undernutrition.
Conclusion: The foresight to establish demographic data collection over seventy years ago has support a wealth of novel research within a traditional African context. The availability of detailed clinical records on maternal and child health is helping us to understand the factors driving child undernutrition in rural Africa, and to identify targets for interventions to improve health in this context.

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