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Impact of stunting on early childhood cognitive development in Benin: evidence from Demographic and Health Survey
Authors: Michael Ekholuenetale, Amadou Barrow, Charity Ehimwenma Ekholuenetale, and Godson Tudeme
Source: Egyptian Pediatric Association Gazette, DOI:
Topic(s): Child health
Mental Health
Country: Africa
Published: OCT 2020
Abstract: Background: Proper nutrition is crucial for enhancing brain function and improving learning. Over time, large evidence has existed to show that childhood undernutrition, marked by stunting, is connected with age-long reduction in cognitive and academic achievement. It is of interest to achieve healthy growth and optimal cognitive development in early childhood. The objective of this study was to examine stunting considered to adversely influence cognitive development among children and therefore of public health importance. Results: About two thirds (64.3%) of under-five children attained optimal cognition. Stunted children had 7% reduction in optimal cognitive development, compared with not stunted children (RR = 0.93; 95%CI 0.83, 0.98). Among the covariates, geographical region was significantly associated with optimal cognitive development. In addition, children of Islamic, traditional/other religion, and no religion had significant reduction in optimal cognitive development, compared with children of Christianity belief. Children from mothers who had secondary and tertiary education, listened to radio, and watched television had an increase in optimal cognitive development, compared with children from uneducated mothers. Furthermore, children from mothers who are employed had an 8% increase in optimal cognitive development (RR = 1.08; 95%CI: 1.02, 1.14). Conclusion: Due to the adverse impact of stunting on optimal cognitive development, we suggest that government and stakeholders in child welfare should ensure that development programmes combine health and nutrition services with early learning and rely on families as partners to have children’s cognitive development effectively. Early childhood cognitive development programmes should be implemented through families and caregivers, with special focus on disadvantaged children as a poverty reduction strategy, and ensure that all children are adequately nourished.