COVID-19 and child malnutrition research in Malaysia could assist communities globally

8 MAY 2024

COVID-19 and child malnutrition research in Malaysia could assist communities globally

A study led by a Charles Sturt University researcher that aimed to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition in the Malaysian state of Selangor may have implications for comparable communities around the world.

  • Charles Sturt University led research in Malaysia that could assist interventions in comparable communities around the world
  • Despite the limitations of the study, the results highlighted the substantial influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition
  • The results could guide decision-makers at family and community levels

A study led by a Charles Sturt University researcher that aimed to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition in the Malaysian state of Selangor may have implications for comparable communities around the world.

Associate Professor Azizur Rahman (pictured, inset) in the Charles Sturt School of Computing, Mathematics and Engineering said child malnutrition risk factors are globally acknowledged and have gained widespread recognition.

“This research endeavours to pinpoint the critical elements of COVID-19 concerning the prevalence of child malnutrition in Selangor, Malaysia, with the particular focus on changes in household income, food insecurity and children’s lifestyles,” he said.

“While several studies about child malnutrition have already been carried out within the Malaysian population, at the time of writing none explicitly targeted the state of Selangor, which has the highest number of children under 18 years.

“However, the precise influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the occurrence of child malnutrition, amid socioeconomic challenges and shifts in familial routines, remains inadequately examined,” Professor Rahman said.

Professor Rahman and colleagues recently published the study, ‘Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition in Selangor, Malaysia: A pilot study’, in the Journal of Infection and Public Health (February 2024).

The impact of several lifestyle shifts caused by the pandemic was particularly examined in the COVID-19 portion of the survey to determine its impact on the prevalence of child malnutrition.

In terms of socio-demographic factors, several variables were found to be significant predictors of child malnutrition, including parental ‘highest educational level’, ‘type of house’, ‘earning members’, ‘number of children’ and ‘citizenship’, all of which showed a significant association with wasting.

The mother’s ‘highest educational level’ was found to be linked to underweight prevalence.

Of the 11 COVID-19-related factors tested, only one (‘COVID-19 impact on business or employment’) was identified to have a statistically significant impact on child nutrition and demonstrated significance for both stunting and wasting.

The present study recognises various limitations, notably a small sample size that could result in bias and underreporting.

Future research should consider a larger sample population with more extensive and diverse samples for comprehensive and conclusive findings.

Recommendations for improved questionnaire distribution methods and direct data collection from clinics and hospitals might provide more accurate results and assist generalisation to the entire state of Selangor, as well as having other state- or country-level comparisons among population groups.

Nevertheless, the results highlighted the substantial influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition, and decision-makers at family and community levels can benefit by considering these factors in their actions.

This study contributes to Professor Rahman’s development of health modelling tools with big data from Southeast Asia and expands Australia’s research collaborations with the region.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Azizur Rahman contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418669362 or via news@csu.edu.au

Funding acknowledgment: This study was supported by the Australian Government Commonwealth Department of Education - Expanding Research Collaborations Australia and Southeast Asia Grant (RM grant number: 103082).

Reference: ‘Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child malnutrition in Selangor, Malaysia: A pilot study’ was published in the Journal of Infection and Public Health (February 2024 , https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2024.02.019 ) by Associate Professor Azizur Rahman and his colleagues Nezza Othman, Dr Md Abdul Kuddus, and Dr Md Zobaer Hasan.


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