The study conducted over a period of one year by a team of doctors at the Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Dharan, eastern Nepal, found anaemia in 222 of the 433 girls assessed.
The girls were pupils at government schools in Dharan municipality and between 10-19 years of age, unmarried, non-lactating, and non-pregnant.
Those with history of chronic disease, tuberculosis, chronic diarrhoea, chronic renal failure, peptic ulcer, thalassemia, aplastic crisis, malignancy or those with history of severe illness requiring hospitalisation within the past two weeks were excluded from the study.
Anaemia was found to be more prevalent in early adolescent age group girls (65.4%) compared to the late (45.5%) and mid-adolescent age groups (31.6%).
“The prevalence of anaemia was quite high; 51% of the total study population. It was significantly associated with undernourishment, lack of parental education and pre-pubescent girls,” said Dr ND Subedi.
Among the 28.2% girls who were undernourished, 75.2% had anaemia. Also, vegetarians were more likely to have anaemia than non-vegetarians, with anaemia found among 69.6% of the vegetarian girls. However, the research doesn’t attribute anaemia prevalence with this type of diet as only 5.3%, a statistically insignificant population, was vegetarian.
The study, published in the Journal of College of Medical Science-Nepal, found the main cause of anaemia was low levels of haemoglobin in their blood because they did not consume enough iron-rich food in their diet.
Although worm infestation is a major cause of anaemia globally, the research failed to establish any linkage between this and anaemia for the Nepalese girls.
The study recommends that the government introduces programmes aimed at improving people’s access to nutritional foods, with the researchers hoping the data will help policymakers design programmes to reduce anaemia, and ultimately reduce maternal morbidity, mortality and low birth weight.
The researchers also recommended that the same study be conducted with a larger sample size to get a clearer picture of the prevalence of anaemia among Nepalese girls.
“The improvement in the nutritional status of younger age group can prevent them from developing anaemia at adolescent and early adulthood,” the study concluded.
“Hence the government should focus on improvement of nutrition of children of younger age group. This might play significant role in reducing maternal morbidity, mortality and low birth weight. The study highlights a high prevalence of anaemia in adolescent Nepalese girls. Further studies with a larger sample size in terrains of Nepal are needed.”
Globally, The World Health Organisation says around 40% of people have anaemia.
Source: Journal of College of Medical Sciences-Nepal
“A study of anaemia among adolescent girls in eastern part of Nepal”
Authors: Dr Piush Kanodia, et al