Household Food Insecurity and Psychosocial Dysfunction in Ecuadorian Elementary Schoolchildren

Household food insecurity (HFI) is a major global public health and pediatric concern due to its reported association with adverse child nutrition, growth, and health outcomes. Psychosocial dysfunction is a major cause of childhood disability. US and Canadian studies have linked HFI to poorer overall psychosocial dysfunction and specific dysfunction types in school-aged children, i.e., internalizing, externalizing, and attention behaviors. However, it is uncertain whether prior findings are generalizable to low- and middle-income country (LMIC) settings. We conducted a cross-sectional study to explore the association of HFI with psychosocial dysfunction in 6-12-year-old public elementary schoolchildren (n=279) residing in low-income neighborhoods in Quito, Ecuador. Maternal caregivers were interviewed to obtain data on child psychosocial dysfunction (Pediatric Symptom Checklist, PSC), food security (Household Food Security Survey Module), and maternal mental health (SF-36 Mental Composite Summary). Capillary blood samples were obtained from child participants to measure hemoglobin levels. The data were analyzed using general linear models with adjustment for covariates. The results revealed that HFI was associated with significantly higher overall average PSC scores (p=0.002) and with internalizing (p=0.001) and externalizing (p=0.03) but not attention subscale scores. However, anemia was independently associated with PSC attention subscale scores (p=0.015). This is the first study to report on the relationship between HFI and psychosocial dysfunction in school-aged children in a LMIC setting. It highlights the importance of improving policies and programs protecting vulnerable households from HFI. In addition to improving health and nutrition, such improvements could potentially reduce the burden of child psychosocial dysfunction.

Publication Date:
Aug 13 2018
Date Submitted:
Jun 28 2019
International Journal of Pediatrics
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 Record created 2019-06-28, last modified 2019-07-11

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