Research identifies causes contributing to poor development of over 200 million children worldwide

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Inadequate intellectual stimulation and poor nutrition, especially iodine and iron deficiencies, are likely to blame for hindering more than 200 million children in developing countries from meeting their full potential, says a Purdue University researcher.

"These problems are robbing children under age 5 of full development, contributing to a cycle of low educational attainment and poverty later in life," said Theodore Wachs, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue and a lead researcher on the project. "We're not talking about genetics here. These are all preventable risks, which makes the situation that much more urgent."

"Child Development: Risk Factors for Adverse Outcomes in Developing Countries," is the second in a three-part series from Wachs and colleagues across the globe aimed at identifying the scope, causes and current prevention efforts regarding the loss of developmental potential among children in countries from Brazil to Vietnam. The series appeared in successive January editions of The Lancet.

The researchers drew from data in studies performed from 1985 to February 2006 by searching eight databases using keywords such as "developing countries," "cognitive development" and "educational attainment." They also worked with documents published by the World Bank, UNICEF and UNESCO's International Bureau of Education.

UNICEF provided funding for a working group meeting for all of the authors with assistance from the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Of the major concerns identified, growth stunting could be the most rampant, affecting as many as 40 percent to 50 percent of children under 5 in some developing countries. Stunting, a measure of chronic undernutrition, is often compounded by infectious diseases.

Studies consistently show associations between stunting and later cognitive deficits, with one study in Jamaica indicating that stunted children score lower on IQ

Contact: Tanya Brown
Purdue University

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