Background: Underweight is a major cause of global disease burden. It is associated with child mortality and morbidity, and its adverse impact on human performance and child survival is well recognized. Underweight is a major public health problem in Bangladesh, which is amongst the highest underweight prevalent countries in the world. The objectives of our study were to determine the national and regional prevalence rates of underweight and severe underweight in Bangladesh, and to investigate the association of socioeconomic and demographic factors with child underweight and severely underweight among children under the age of five living in Bangladesh. Methods: We performed a cross sectional study using Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey 2012–13, Bangladesh data on 17,133 children under 5 years of age. Weight-for-age Z scores based upon World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines were used to define child underweight and severe underweight. The association of underweight and severe underweight with household socioeconomic factors and demographic characteristics was investigated using binary logistic regression model. Results: An estimated 31.67% children were underweight and 8.81% children were severely underweight. Children of mothers with incomplete secondary education [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.84, 95% CI: 0.75, 0.94] and mothers with completed secondary education [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.77, 95% CI: 0.64, 0.93] were less likely to be underweight than children of uneducated mothers who had no formal schooling. A similar association exists for father’s education, children from households in the highest wealth index quintile had lower likelihood of underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.44, 95% CI: 0.37, 0.53] than children from households in the lowest quintile. Consumption of non-iodized salt had higher risk of severe underweight for children aged between 24 and 35 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.32, 95% CI: 1.80, 3.00]. Other risk factors of child severe underweight included living in Sylhet division and increases in the number of children under the age of five in a household. Conclusion: Underweight was associated with lower parental education, household position in lower wealth index, living in Sylhet division and consumption of non-iodized salt. Strategies are discussed considering the relative importance of risk factors for child underweight. Keywords: Determinants, Underweight, Bangladesh, Child, Early childhood Background children who are mild to moderately malnourished com- Developing countries have the greatest prevalence of pared with well-nourished children [5, 6]. The adverse early childhood malnutrition despite recent rapid eco- impacts of malnutrition are not limited to school attend- nomic development [1–3]. Malnutrition is the prime ance rates and academic accomplishments, but also culprit for early childhood death, causing the deaths of linked to decreases in the development of social skills 13 million infants and children under the age of five among children [7, 8]. Malnutrition is associated with every year . There is a higher risk of dying among poorer academic performance in school-aged children  and lower survival capacity for a child in its adult- * Correspondence: email@example.com hood . Department of Economics, Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Sylhet Kumargaon, Sylhet 3114, Bangladesh Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 2 of 12 Malnutrition status is investigated using three an- education. Mohsena et al.  explored the Bangladesh thropometric parameters: height for age, weight for Demographic and Health Survey (2004) Data and found height and weight for age . Height for age is used that higher levels of maternal education are associated to identify stunting which represents linear growth with lower risk of underweight. In Bangladesh, paternal failure for a child . Weight for height is used to education was also found to be an independent deter- identify wasting which indicates an unusually body tissue minant of child underweight by few studies [27, 33]. Ac- and fat mass for a child relative to its height or length cording to Das et al. , children of illiterate fathers . Weight for age is the WHO-recommended indicator had a 30% higher likelihood of being underweight to determine whether the child is underweight or not than the children of fathers who had completed pri- . As underweight is a composite indicator that encom- mary school. Another study that finds a positive asso- passes both stunting and wasting  implying that stunt- ciation between paternal education and risk of child ing, wasting or both can be reflected by underweight , underweight . our primary interest is to use weight for age indicator to Socioeconomic status like poverty is also a signifi- measure early childhood underweight. cant predictor of child underweight. Children coming Underweight has become a major public health from poor families are more likely to be underweight problem particularly in developing nations, and its compared with children coming from wealthier fam- destructive impact on human performance and child ilies . Despite the fact that Bangladesh has man- survival has been well recognized . It is a prime aged to achieve an enormous economic growth in the concern as underweight is the leading cause of global last 20 years along with massive improvements in disease burden . Underweight is associated with educational achievement, still a large proportion of its increased risk of contagious disease such as diarrhea population, nearly 43.3%, are living under the poverty and pneumonia . The World Health Organization line of 1.25 dollar per day . Having such a large (WHO)cites underweightas the single largest risk proportion of the population living in poverty, hence factor in developing countries to the burden of dis- unable to afford nutritious food or access improved ease,  as an estimated 52.5% of all deaths among health care facilities, makes the task of reducing the coun- young children are attributable to underweight . try’s prevalence of underweight children extremely difficult. In the countries where child mortality is high, under- Indeed, a number of studies conducted in Bangladesh sug- weight is accountable for 15% of the total disability gested household socioeconomic status as a significant de- adjusted life years losses . Underweight children terminant of child underweight, reporting that children are 8.4 times more likely to die and children who are from relatively higher socioeconomic condition had lower suffering from moderate and mildly underweight are likelihood of being underweight [28, 33]. A study in 4.6 times and 2.5 times respectively more likely to die Bangladesh carried out by Alom et al. reportedthat before the age of five compared to children who are children who came from the richest wealth index had 44% well-nourished . lower odds of being underweight compared with children In 2011, 101 million children globally were estimated as from the poorest wealth index. underweight indicating the prevalence rate of underweight Among the socioeconomic determinants, most of the as 16% . The situation is worse in Bangladesh, where studies conducted in Bangladesh confirmed that mothers’ underweight prevalence rate was reported to be 41% . literacy status, choice of latrine and poor household in- There are many socioeconomic and biological factors that come are the associated risk factors for underweight are associated with child underweight. Biological factors among children under five [25, 27, 29, 30]. Other risk fac- include lower birth weight , having an underweight tors estimated as significantly associated with the risk of mother or father, and having a mother or father of short child underweight are improper feeding practices, mater- stature. Among the socioeconomic factors, children with nal antenatal and postnatal care, diarrhea of children mothers who don’t have any formal education are at within last 2 weeks ; living in rural area ; mothers greater risk of being underweight . having less exposure to media, children of mothers work- Even though Bangladesh has one of the highest preva- ing outside home ; unimproved toilet facilities, and liv- lence of underweight in the world, few studies have inginSylhet division. The risk of being underweight identified the socioeconomic factors responsible for among under-five children was observed to increase with child underweight [24–30]. Most of the studies con- an increase in children’s age by several studies in ducted in Bangladesh suggested that maternal education Bangladesh. [29, 31, 33]. The causes for underweight are is a strong and significant predictor for child under- multidimensional and interrelated, and they often change weight [24, 28, 29, 31, 32]. A recent study by Devkota et from country to country, highlighting the importance of al.  established a positive association of WAZ local research studies. Therefore, the objectives of our (weight-for-age z score) with the level of maternal study is to determine the national and regional prevalence Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 3 of 12 of underweight and severe underweight and their associ- The first stage of sampling involved determining census ated risk factors in Bangladesh. enumeration areas required within each district, which were defined as primary sampling units. From 30 No- vember, 2012 to 6 December, 2012, field operations were Method carried out in each enumeration area to make new list- Data sources ings of households; primarily because the 2011 census The analysis was based on the Bangladesh Multiple Indi- frame was not up-to-date. Experienced staff of the cators Cluster Survey (MICS) 2012–13 data conducted Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) prepared the list by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics along with UNICEF of households in the field, and at the BBS headquarter, who provided technical and financial support. Data were the listed households were numbered sequentially from collected from December 2012 to April 2013. The major 1 to n within each enumeration area. Here, Random Sys- objectives of the survey were to collect the most recent tematic Sample Selection Procedure was used to select data on women and child health, household socioeco- 20 households in each enumeration area. Households in- nomic status, access to mass media, ICT improved sani- cluded 23,402 children below 5 years of age and infor- tation and pure water, child nutrition, mortality and mation on 20,903 under five children was collected, child development. The sample was selected using indicating a response rate of 89.3%. For the purpose of two-staged stratified cluster sampling approach. In the data collection, structured questionnaires were used. time period during which data were collected, there The questionnaires had four sections comprised of ques- were seven divisions and 64 districts in Bangladesh and tions pertaining to household, women (age 15–49), chil- districts were defined as sampling strata . The pro- dren under five and water quality testing. Thirty-two portion of women with 4+ ANC visits, where the term data collection teams collected data, with each team hav- ANC stands for antenatal care visit, was used as key in- ing seven members including a supervisor and inter- dicator in estimating the size of sample. The sample size viewers. The teams were provided with training for was determined using the following formula n= 14 days prior to collecting data. Recommended an- ½4ðrÞð1−rÞðdeff Þ , where 4 = factor for achieving 95% con- thropometric tools were used to measure child weight ½e ðpbÞðAve SizeÞðRRÞ fidence level; r = projected value of the indicator, which and height . Collected data from the field were en- was assumed to be 26% and expressed as a proportion; tered using CSPro software and all questionnaires were n = sample size; deff = design effect for the indicator, and entered twice to ensure the quality of data . the value of deff was estimated to be 1.4 based on previ- ous surveys; Ave Size = average household size, and it Statistical analysis was assumed as 4.5; pb refers to the percentage of There were 20,903 children under age 5 years about women in the total population, who gave birth in the last whom information was collected. However, 982 children 2 years, and it was taken to be 4%; RR = anticipated re- were not included as there was no information for sponse rate which was assumed to be 95% based on the weight-for-age-z score. For the households with more previous survey experience . In estimating r, max- than one child under the age of five, the youngest one imum margin of error was allowed of ±8 to 9%, and was selected as the index child and the other children in thereby a sample size of 800 was decided for each dis- the household were not considered for the study. Finally, trict. For obtaining a more precise estimation result, data pertaining to 17,133 children below the age of five 1000 samples were drawn from each of the 20 UNDAF were subject to analysis. Weight-for-age-z score of districts. UNDAF (United Nation Development Assist- WHO growth standard was used to create the under- ance Framework) districts are those 20 districts that weight variable. Children were defined to be under- have been declared as prioritized districts by Bangladesh weight if their weight-for-age-z scores were below minus government. Twenty households per cluster were se- two and severely underweight if their weight-for-age-z lected for the survey, taking in consideration various fac- scores were below minus three. Data analysis was per- tors such as time, budget, design effect etc. Twenty formed using Stata version 12.1. Child, paternal and households per cluster suggest that for drawing 1000 household socioeconomic factors were included in the households as sample, 50 clusters would be needed in analysis as predictors of child underweight. Factors in- each of the 20 UNDAF districts, and 40 cluster would be cluded child’s age, gender, geographic area, education needed for drawing 800 households as sample size in level of mother, education level of father, regional div- each of the remaining 44 non UNDAF districts. In this ision, wealth index quintile used as the proxy indicator way, the resulting sample size would be 55,200. But 4 of household socioeconomic status, number of house- clusters were not visited due to unfavorable weather hold members, toilet facility, salt iodization test, whether and, therefore, data was collected from 55,120 house- the child drank plain water yesterday (yes/no), whether holds. Clusters were selected using 2011 census frame. the child drank milk yesterday (yes/no), whether the Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 4 of 12 child took vitamins yesterday (yes/no) and number of The analysis determined the following factors to be as- children in a household below the age of five. Wealth sociated with the risk of underweight: age of children, index score was computed by principal component ana- division, education level of mother and education level lysis based on household assets and materials used to of father, wealth index, whether the child drank plain build house . All households were then categorized water yesterday and finally the use of iodized salt by into five categories depending on wealth score such as households. Children living in Khulna division were 15% poorest, second, middle, fourth and richest. Toilet facil- less likely to be underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.85, ity variable was created with four categories as flush la- 95% CI: 0.75, 0.96] compared with the children living in trine, pit latrine, hanging latrine and others. Descriptive Dhaka division. Children from Sylhet division were more statistics were created for all predictors as well as for re- prone to the risk of underweight than any other division sponse variable. As our dependent variable was dichot- in Bangladesh with higher odds on underweight [Odds omous, underweight versus not underweight and Ratio (OR) = 1.38, 95% CI: 1.20, 1.60] than the children severely underweight versus not severely underweight, from Dhaka division. Our results suggested child’s age as predictors for the risk of child underweight and severely one of the major determinants of underweight. Children underweight were investigated using binary logistic re- aged 12–23 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.98, 95% CI: gression model. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05 1.69, 2.32] had around two-fold odds on underweight and adjusted odds ratio was reported along with 95% compared with children below 5 months of age. The risk confidence interval. for underweight was highest among the children who were in their early middle childhood. Children aged 24– Results 35 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.58, 95% CI: 2.20, 3.03] Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the had over two-fold risk on underweight relative to the study population children less than 5 months of age. Children between The final analysis of 17,133 children estimated that 31.67% the ages of 36–47 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.44, 95% of these children were underweight including 8.81% as se- CI: 2.07, 2.88] and children between the ages of 48– verely underweight. Table 1 demonstrated socioeconomic 59 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.35, 95% CI: 1.98, 2.77] and demographic characteristics of the study population. were more likely to be underweight compared with the The male to female ratio of children was 1069:1000. children who were below 5 months of age. Children of More than four-fifths of children came from rural area secondary incomplete mothers had 16% smaller odds on and around two-thirds of the surveyed children belonged underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.84, 95% CI: 0.75, to the households with four to six family members. 0.94] than the children of mothers with no formal edu- More than one-fifth of the children were between the cation. There were 23% lower odds on underweight ages of 12 and 23 months, and approximately 11% of among children whose mothers completed secondary children were aged less than 5 months. The highest education [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.77, 95% CI; 0.64, 0.93] (25.36%) proportion of children lived in Dhaka division than the children whose mothers had not attended with the lowest from Sylhet division (8.21%). More than school at all. As with mother’s education, an increase in one-third of fathers did not go to school and likewise the level of father’s education reduced the odds on child one-fourth of mothers did not have any formal educa- underweight. Children with father’s education secondary tion. Only 11.37% of mothers and 15.38% of fathers incomplete and secondary complete had 12% [Odds Ra- completed secondary education. Nearly, one third of the tio (OR) = 0.88, 95% CI: 0.79, 0.98] and 28% [Odds Ratio study children belonged to households of the poorest (OR) = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.62, 0.84] lower odds on under- wealth quintile (29.06%) and only 13.87% children weight respectively in comparison with children whose belonged to richest wealth quintile. On the previous day, fathers had no formal education. Children who didn’t approximately 86% children drank plain water 24% drink plain water yesterday were 1.27 times more likely drank milk and 9.06% ate or drank vitamins. More than to be underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.27, 955 CI: 1.12, half of the households have iodized salt (51.43%). The 1.43] compared with children who drank water the pre- majority of households had access to pit latrine (62.34%) vious day. and almost one-third of households had access to flush Wealth index was also related to the risk of under- latrines. weight. Children belonging to households which were in the middle category [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.82, 95% CI: Risk factors for underweight 0.73, 0.91] and in fourth category [Odds Ratio (OR) = Table 2 lists the socioeconomic and demographic factors 0.67, 95% CI: 0.59, 0.77] were less likely to be under- along with their association and the magnitude of im- weight compared with the children who belonged to the pact on the risk for underweight among children below poorest households in the wealth index. There were 56% 5 years old using binary logistic regression analysis. lower odds on underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.44, Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 5 of 12 Table 1 Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the Table 1 Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the study population study population (Continued) Total sample Total sample (n = 17133) (n = 17133) Characteristics Proportion (%) Characteristics Proportion (%) Household member Fourth 16.52 <=3 14.29 Richest 13.87 4–6 63.64 Child drank plain water yesterday > = 7 22.06 Yes 85.46 Age (months) No 14.54 0–5 10.93 Child drank milk yesterday 6–11 10.80 Yes 23.44 12–23 21.88 No 76.56 24–35 20.60 Child ate vitamins yesterday 36–47 18.75 Yes 9.06 48–59 17.04 No 90.94 Gender Toilet facility Male 51.67 Flush latrine 23.94 Female 48.33 Pit latrine 62.34 Area Hanging latrine 7.78 Urban 15.87 Others 5.93 Rural 84.13 Salt idolization test Division Not iodized 0 PPM 27.15 Dhaka 25.36 More than 0 PPM and less than 15 PPM 20.49 Barisal 9.64 15 PPM or more 51.43 Chittagong 19.53 No salt in the household 0.92 Khulna 13.96 Child underweight status Rajshahi 10.28 Underweight 31.67 Rangpur 13.01 Severely underweight 8.81 Sylhet 8.21 Education of mother None 24.10 95% CI: 0.37, 0.53] among the children who came from Primary incomplete 14.55 richest households than the children who came from Primary complete 15.39 poorest households. Children living in households where salt was found as adequately iodized (15 ppm or more) Secondary incomplete 34.59 had a lower likelihood of underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) Secondary complete or higher 11.37 = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.82, 0.98] compared with children from Education of father those households where salt was found to be not iodized None 34.79 in salt iodization tests. Our study did not establish a re- Primary incomplete 15.73 lationship between child gender and underweight, nor Primary complete 13.75 did it establish that children from rural areas were more likely to be underweight compared with children from Secondary incomplete 20.35 urban areas. Secondary complete or higher 15.38 Wealth index quintile Risk factors for severe underweight Poorest 29.06 Table 3 lists the results of the binary logistic regression Second 21.86 analysis on the risk for child severe underweight associ- Middle 18.69 ated with different socioeconomic and demographic factors. Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 6 of 12 Table 2 Risk factors for total underweight in children aged less than 5 years Factors Underweight (%) N OR 95% CI Household member <=3 33.24 2449 ref. 4–6 31.54 10,904 0.91 (0.82–1.00) > = 7 31.03 3780 1.00 (0.88–1.13) Age (Months) 0–5 21.10 1872 ref. 6–11 21.88 1851 1.17 (0.98–1.39) *** 12–23 31.05 3749 1.98 (1.69–2.32) *** 24–35 36.91 3530 2.58 (2.20–3.03) *** 36–47 35.62 3212 2.44 (2.07–2.88) *** 48–59 34.77 2919 2.35 (1.98–2.77) Gender Male 32.15 8853 ref. Female 31.16 8280 0.96 (0.90–1.03) Area Urban 26.52 2719 ref. Rural 32.64 14,414 0.96 (0.86–1.07) Division Dhaka 30.29 4345 ref. Barisal 33.96 1652 1.04 (0.91–1.19) Chittagong 33.59 3346 1.11 (0.99–1.24) ** Khulna 26.55 2392 0.85 (0.75–0.96) Rajshahi 30.14 1762 0.90 (0.79–1.02) Rangpur 32.17 2229 0.98 (0.87–1.11) *** Sylhet 38.52 1407 1.38 (1.20–1.60) Education of mother None 39.55 4129 ref. Primary incomplete 37.18 2493 1.02 (0.91–1.14) Primary complete 34.36 2637 0.96 (0.85–1.07) ** Secondary incomplete 27.19 5926 0.84 (0.75–0.94) ** Secondary complete or higher 17.92 1948 0.77 (0.64–0.93) Education of father None 38.25 5428 ref. Primary incomplete 35.66 2454 0.98 (0.88–1.09) Primary complete 33.15 2145 0.97 (0.87–1.09) Secondary incomplete 27.81 3175 0.88 (0.79–0.98) *** Secondary complete or higher 19.30 2399 0.72 (0.62–0.84) Wealth index quintile Poorest 40.11 4979 ref. Second 35.54 3745 0.90 (0.82–0.99) *** Middle 30.78 3203 0.82 (0.73–0.91) *** Fourth 25.48 2830 0.67 (0.59–0.77) *** Richest 16.46 2376 0.44 (0.37–0.53) Child drank plain water yesterday Yes 32.11 14,619 ref. *** No 29.03 2487 1.27 (1.12–1.43) Child drank milk yesterday Yes 26.94 4013 ref. No 33.10 13,105 1.07 (0.98–1.17) Child ate vitamins yesterday Yes 28.69 1551 ref. No 31.97 15,559 0.96 (0.84–1.09) Toilet facility Flush latrine 24.46 4100 ref. Pit latrine 32.53 10,677 1.04 (0.94–1.16) Hanging latrine 41.86 1333 1.11 (0.95–1.30) Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 7 of 12 Table 2 Risk factors for total underweight in children aged less than 5 years (Continued) Factors Underweight (%) N OR 95% CI Others 38.29 1016 1.02 (0.86–1.22) Salt iodization test Not iodized 0 PPM 36.54 4619 ref. More than 0 PPM and less than 15 PPM 34.77 3486 0.96 (0.87–1.06) 15 PPM or more 27.90 8750 0.90 (0.82–0.98) No salt in the household 29.30 157 0.80 (0.55–1.16) Number of under five children 1.02 (0.93–1.11) *** ** * p < 0.001; p < 0.01; p < 0.05 Age of children was associated with the risk for child had 21% lower odds of being severely underweight when severe underweight with children aged 12–23 months their fathers had enrolled in secondary education compare having almost twice the odds on severe underweight to children whose fathers had no formal education [Odds [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.81, 95% CI: 1.40, 2.34] than the Ratio (OR) = 0.79, 95% CI: 0.65, 0.95]. There were 34% children aged less than 5 months. Children aged 24– lower odds of severely underweight among children with 25 months had the highest risk for being severely under- fathers who had completed secondary education [Odds Ra- weight. Compared with children aged below 5 months, tio (OR) = 0.66, 95% CI: 0.50, 0.88] compared with children children aged 24–35 months [Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.32, whose fathers had no formal education. An increase in the 95% CI: 1.80, 3.00] had a more than two-fold risk of se- number of children under the age of five in households by vere underweight. Furthermore, children between the 1 was associated with 17% higher odds on severe under- ages of 48–59 months had also larger odds of severe weight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.33]. underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.48, 95% CI: 1.12, 1.95] compared with their under-five counterparts. Chil- Discussion dren from the poorest households were at higher risk for Our study estimated 31.67% children below 5 years of age being severely underweight. Children from households as underweight, with 8.8% children as severely under- belonging to the middle category in wealth index had weight in 2011–2012 in Bangladesh. The present study 20% lower likelihood of underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) findings indicated a concerning nutritional condition = 0.80, 95% CI: 0.67, 0.96] and children from households among children aged under 5 years, especially those aged that belonged to fourth category in the wealth index had 2–3 years. Child underweight and severely underweight 49% lower odds of underweight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.51, were predicted by child’s age, regional division, education 95% CI: 0.40, 0.64] compared with the children from the level of mother, education level of father, household pos- poorest households. In comparison with the children ition in wealth index, whether child drank plain water yes- from the poorest households, children from the wealthi- terday, and the presence of iodized salt in households. est households had 68% lower odds of severe under- Our study reveals maternal education as an important weight [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.32, 95% CI: 0.23, 0.46]. determinant of child underweight. According to our There were 32% lower odds on severe underweight study findings, higher levels of maternal education are among children living in the Khulna division [Odds Ra- associated with lower odds of child underweight, which tio (OR) = 0.68, 95% CI: 0.55, 0.85] and 34% higher odds was supported by previous studies [24, 36, 37]. Likewise, on severe underweight among children living in the Syl- maternal education was estimated to be an independent het division [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.66] predictor of children being severely underweight. Chil- compared with children living in the Dhaka division. Im- dren of secondary completed mothers had 31% lower proved mother’s education and father’s education levels odds of being severely underweight compared with chil- were shown to be important protective factors against dren of uneducated mothers. Similar findings have been child severe underweight. Children with mothers’ pri- observed in earlier studies carried out in Bangladesh, mary education complete [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.79, 95% which have shown that children of uneducated mothers CI: 0.66, 0.95] and secondary incomplete [Odds Ratio were significantly more likely to be severely underweight (OR) = 0.78, 95% CI: 0.65, 0.92] were less likely to be se- than children whose mothers had a relatively higher verely underweight compared with children whose level of education [25, 38–43]. There are some plausible mothers had no formal education. Children of mothers explanations as to why higher maternal education re- who had completed secondary education had 31% lower duces the chance of underweight and severely under- odds [Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.49, 0.97] of being weight among children under the age of five. First, severely underweight compared with children whose education improves information processing capacity by mothers had not completed secondary education. Children the mother [44, 45]. For instance, an educated mother Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 8 of 12 Table 3 Risk factors for severe underweight in children aged less than 5 years Factors Severe Underweight (%) N OR 95% CI Household member <=3 8.82 2449 4–6 8.69 10,904 0.89 (0.75–1.05) > = 7 9.13 3780 0.98 (0.80–1.20) Age (Months) 0–5 6.57 1872 6–11 6.86 1851 1.25 (0.94–1.66) *** 12–23 9.02 3749 1.81 (1.40–2.34) *** 24–35 11.16 3530 2.32 (1.80–3.00) *** 36–47 9.74 3212 2.04 (1.56–2.65) *** 48–59 7.33 2919 1.48 (1.12–1.95) Gender Male 9.25 8853 Female 8.33 8280 0.90 (0.80–1.00) Area Urban 6.91 2719 Rural 9.16 14,414 0.96 (0.80–1.15) Division Dhaka 8.63 4345 Barisal 9.87 1652 1.06 (0.86–1.32) Chittagong 10.10 3346 1.06 (0.89–1.26) ** Khulna 5.60 2392 0.68 (0.55–0.85) Rajshahi 7.72 1762 0.86 (0.69–1.06) Rangpur 8.03 2229 0.82 (0.67–1.00) ** Sylhet 13.08 1407 1.34 (1.09–1.66) Education of mother None 12.79 4129 Primary incomplete 10.87 2493 0.93 (0.78–1.10) Primary complete 8.99 2637 0.79 (0.66–0.95) ** Secondary incomplete 6.77 5926 0.78 (0.65–0.92) Secondary complete or higher 3.70 1948 0.69 (0.49–0.97) Education of father None 11.81 5428 Primary incomplete 9.98 2454 0.93 (0.79–1.09) Primary complete 9.60 2145 1.02 (0.86–1.22) Secondary incomplete 6.46 3175 0.79 (0.65–0.95) ** Secondary complete or higher 3.96 2399 0.66 (0.50–0.88) Wealth index quintile Poorest 12.59 4979 Second 10.28 3745 0.93 (0.80–1.08) Middle 8.30 3203 0.80 (0.67–0.96) *** Fourth 5.55 2830 0.51 (0.40–0.64) *** Richest 3.11 2376 0.32 (0.23–0.46) Child drank plain water yesterday Yes 8.65 14,619 *** No 9.77 2487 1.45 (1.21–1.73) Child drank milk yesterday Yes 7.28 4013 No 9.28 13,105 0.94 (0.81–1.09) Child ate vitamin yesterday Yes 7.67 1551 No 8.93 15,559 1.01 (0.81–1.25) Toilet facility Flush latrine 6.44 4100 Pit latrine 8.73 10,677 0.91 (0.76–1.08) Hanging latrine 14.40 1333 1.01 (0.80–1.28) Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 9 of 12 Table 3 Risk factors for severe underweight in children aged less than 5 years (Continued) Factors Severe Underweight (%) N OR 95% CI Others 11.81 1016 0.96 (0.73–1.26) Salt iodization test Not iodized 0 PPM 10.46 4619 More than 0 PPM and less than 15 PPM 10.33 3486 1.04 (0.89–1.21) 15 PPM or more 7.38 8750 0.94 (0.82–1.08) No salt in the household 7.01 157 0.79 (0.42–1.47) Number of under five children 1.17 (1.02–1.33) *** ** * p < 0.001; p < 0.01, p < 0.0 can read, interpret and apply health tips from newspa- more knowledge of improved child care practices , pers and other sources, and is more likely to understand are better able to take responsibility for their children medical information such as medication levels suggested during illness , and more likely to have greater con- by doctor. These skills enable mothers to make informed trol over household decision-making . Even though decisions about their children’s nutrition and health care, we do not know exactly why increased maternal educa- leading to improved child health. tion is associated with lower likelihood of child under- Second, maternal education is associated with an in- weight, the aforementioned result underscore the need crease in the frequency of mothers’ antenatal care visits for female education to reduce underweight prevalence and their utilization of child health services, leading to among children. decreased likelihood of underweight and severely under- Similar to maternal education, paternal education was a weight children. It has been evident from studies that significant predictor of underweight and severe under- the more educated mothers are the more likely they are weight. The result was supported by other studies that to access child health facilities more regularly compared suggested low paternal education was associated with in- to less educated mothers [46–48]. Antenatal care is often creased odds of child underweight [26, 27, 56, 57]. Educa- associated with improved child nutrition , and a tion level of fathers is generally associated with household study that employed data from 17 countries, aiming at income due to the fact that more educated fathers are determining the relationship between maternal educa- more likely to earn more money; indeed, father’seduca- tion and child survival, found that uneducated women tion is typically used as a proxy indicator of household in- represented 55% more non-use of antenatal services come . Data on Indonesian children suggested that than their educated counterparts . preventive factors against child malnutrition, such as use Third, there is general recognition that more educated of improved latrine, vitamin A capsules for children, ac- mothers are more likely to earn more money [44, 50]. cess to health facilities from local health community This implies increased capability to invest in their chil- clinics, and consumption of iodized salt, were strongly re- dren’s health, and more possibilities for living in an en- lated with higher level of paternal education . There is vironment with relatively higher food security. Finally, strong evidence that more educated men are more likely maternal education improves child nutritional status to marry more educated women. As a result, children of through its impact on appropriate feeding practices by more educated fathers have an increased chance of having mothers. Appropriate feeding practices have been docu- mothers who are also more educated. The view is sup- mented as very crucial for improving nutrition condi- ported by Grossman’s model of the demand for good tions of children; particularly during their infancy , health which claims that more efficient investment in and a study conducted in Bangladesh revealed the asso- health is associated with more education . ciation between improved feeding practices with educa- Another factor estimated to be significantly associated tion level of mother by demonstrating their findings with child under-nutrition is the age of the children. that; compared with uneducated mothers, educated Children below 5 months of age had the lowest risk of mothers were more concerned to breastfeed their chil- being underweight. One possible explanation could be dren in protected place along with cleanness; that they that during this period children are still being breastfed, were more aware to take breaks from the work at hand thereby gaining essential nutrition that renders them less while breastfeeding their children and were more con- vulnerable to malnutrition. On the other hand, study re- scious ensuring hygiene in the time children were pro- sults indicate that children’s risk of being underweight vided food . Furthermore, higher level of education, increased with age, this risk reaching its peak between completed by mothers, is associated with behavioral the ages of 24–35 months. This suggests that during that changes that improve child health. Women who have period of children’s development, they had more than completed secondary education are more likely to have double the risk for underweight than the children who Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 10 of 12 were less than 5 months of age. The similar result was media and poor maternal health were responsible for in- reported by a study which found the risk of being under- creased risk and higher prevalence of underweight among weight and severely underweight as highest between the under five children in the Sylhet division . ages of 22–24 months . Another study conducted The study had some limitations that should be ad- with Ethiopian children also supports our findings, dressed. First of all, the study was cross-sectional in de- which determined the association of the odds on child sign indicating that it was impossible to establish any underweight and severely underweight with age of chil- causal relationship between underweight and the esti- dren . The reason for increased risk of underweight mated risk factors. Nevertheless, the findings have great associated with age may be that as children’s age in- significance as it is claimed that the results from the creased, they consumed complementary food along with same specific area using cross-sectional data have very breast milk. Contamination is more likely in comple- limited variation over time. Secondly, household income mentary food, therefore implicated in spreading infec- is a well-established determinant of child underweight. tious diseases among children and in turn rendering But it is nearly impossible to have reliable data on them vulnerable to the risk of underweight . household income and expenditure, particularly in de- Moreover, there is strong evidence that the prevalence veloping countries such as Bangladesh. That being the of childhood disease is associated with child age, particu- case, we elected to use wealth index as a proxy indicator larly in most of the developing countries . Children of household income, bearing in mind that wealth index living in higher wealth index households had smaller risk might not sufficiently represent household income. of being underweight and the finding was supported by Finally, data did not include child birth weight, other research work that claimed that children in lower mother’s weight, father’s weight, parents’ age, father’s oc- wealth index households had greater chance of under- cupation, or mother’s occupation. The magnitude of esti- weight than the children in higher wealth index house- mated risk factors could possibly be changed if those holds [56, 61, 63–66]. The explanation could be that factors were adjusted for our regression model. Despite the children in higher wealth index households were more study’s limitations, its strength was in assessing a large likely to belong to relatively food secure families, had number of samples, hence the findings can be generalized comparatively more educated fathers and mothers, and to all Bangladeshi children below 5 years old in 2011– lived in better neighborhood with improved health facil- 2012. This group of children needs to be re-examined in 5 ities. These factors might possibly have reduced the risk and 10 years to determine whether underweight and severe of underweight among the children living in higher underweight leads to lasting detriments for these children. wealth index households. It is widely known that mater- nal knowledge on child health has profound impact on Conclusion child well nourishment, and a study performed in Overall, in Bangladesh approximately one-third of the Bangladesh documented that mothers with better child study population is estimated as underweight. Under- health knowledge had mostly come from the richest weight prevalence not only reflects poor nutritional con- households . It implies the significance of household ditions for children in a country, in general, it also economic condition on child nutrition through im- reflects high socio-economic costs for low quality of life, proved maternal knowledge on child health. Respon- vulnerability to different diseases and greater risk of dents who reported their children had drunk plain water childhood death. Due to the fact that it is more likely yesterday had lower odds on underweight for their chil- that underweight children who survive to adulthood will dren but there was no relationship between underweight experience greater health problems, the prevalence of and the type of toilet facilities. The risk of underweight underweight may also contribute to loss of productivity. was similar between male and female children, and be- The study revealed that the Sylhet division has the tween rural and urban children, which was unexpected. highest risk of severe underweight for under five chil- One explanation for this may be that poor people from dren, followed by the Chittagong division. With both di- rural areas were migrating to urban slum areas where visions their poverty rates are among the lowest in the economic conditions and health facilities were not re- country according to the latest Bangladesh Poverty markably different from rural areas. The risk for children Maps. This paper reveals that other than household pos- to be underweight depended on the division they lived ition in the lower wealth index, lower parental education in. Children from the Sylhet division had higher probability is one of the most important risk factors for child under- of underweight relative to children from the Dhaka division. weight. Sylhet is the home of most Bangladeshis that mi- The reason is not clear why children living in the Sylhet grate to the United Kingdom and are engaged in unskilled division were at more risk of underweight. Nevertheless, or semi-skilled blue-collar jobs and send remittances. Al- one possible reason might be that poor socioeconomic con- though remittances have improved land and housing in ditions such as few skilled workers, limited exposure to Sylhet, investment in other social sectors like education or Chowdhury et al. Globalization and Health (2018) 14:54 Page 11 of 12 business is reported to be insignificant . 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