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Malnutrition and bacterial infection

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Newspapers and magazines are filled with stories on exotic diseases, but these might not be the biggest danger to children

Newspapers and magazines are filled with stories on exotic diseases, but these might not be the biggest danger to children. A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in parts of Kenya with a high incidence of both malaria and HIV, unrelated bacterial infections were still the most important cause of death. The main risk factor identified was malnutrition.

The authors question whether the narrow disease-focused approach to public health in poor nations is appropriate. It would make much more sense to find ways to both increase the quantity of food that children get and ensure that they receive an adequate variety.

A recent study in South Africa showed that food choices are often weighted to what is cheapest, least perishable, and most convenient. Corn meal, tea, sugar, and oil were the most commonly purchased foods. Intake of green vegetables, fish, and whole grains was low and was probably responsible for the observed deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron.

You can help by supporting aid organizations that recognize the importance of indigenous agriculture as well as education in farming techniques and nutrition.

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