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J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1320-5.

Association of household rice expenditure with child nutritional status indicates a role for macroeconomic food policy in combating malnutrition.

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Helen Keller International, Gulshan 1212, Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Macroeconomic food policies have the potential to reduce malnutrition by improving access to food, a determinant of nutritional status. However, very little is understood about the mechanisms and the magnitude of the effects of macroeconomic food policies such as food price policies on nutritional status. Data collected by the Nutritional Surveillance Project on a total of 81,337 children aged 6-59 mo in rural Bangladesh between 1992 and 2000 were used to examine how changes in rice price affect child underweight. Rice consumption per capita declined only slightly during the period but rice expenditure per capita varied widely due to fluctuations in rice price. Rice expenditure was positively correlated with the percentage of underweight children (r = 0.91, P = 0.001). Households were found to spend more on nonrice foods as their rice expenditure declined, and nonrice expenditure per capita was negatively correlated with the percentage of underweight children (r = -0.91, P = 0.001). Expenditure on nonrice foods per capita increased with the frequency with which nonrice foods were consumed (P < 0.05) and with the diversity of the diet (P < 0.001). The findings suggest that the percentage of underweight children declined when rice expenditure fell because households were able to spend more on nonrice foods and thereby increase the quantity and quality of their diet. We hypothesize that macroeconomic food policies that keep the price of food staples low can contribute toward reducing child underweight.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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