2014, Number 1
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ABSTRACTIntroduction: Anemia is the main nutritional problem in Cuban preschool children, prompting several interventions to prevent and control it. An enhanced national strategy was established in 2008, and particular attention paid to the eastern provinces, the region with greatest challenges in social determinants of health.
Objetive: Determine anemia prevalence in children aged 6–59 months in Cuba's five eastern provinces in three separate years within a decade, as well as association of anemia with epidemiological and nutritional factors, to assess impact of Cuba's Comprehensive Plan for Prevention and Control of Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Cuba.
Methods: Cross-sectional studies of children aged 6–59 months (completed) were conducted in 2005, 2008 and 2011. Hemoglobin levels were measured to diagnose anemia (hemoglobin ‹ 110 g/L) and data were collected on independent variables such as age, sex, area of residence (urban or rural), daycare center enrollment, birth weight, breastfeeding history, and maternal anemia during pregnancy. Frequency distributions were created and comparisons tested with the chi square, and odds ratios calculated with 95% confidence intervals.
Results: Anemia prevalence in the region fell from 31.8% in 2005 to 26% in 2011; most of cases were mild (hemoglobin: 100–109 g/L). Prevalence was higher in children aged 6–23 months than in those aged 24–59 months throughout. No significant differences were found in anemia prevalence between boys and girls. Prevalence was higher in rural than in urban areas in 2005 (p = 0.026) and 2011 (p = 0.012). Daycare enrollment emerged as a protective factor in all three years. Low birth weight was associated with anemia only in 2011 (OR 1.74, CI 1.04–2.92). Prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for six months increased over the study period; lack of breastfeeding was found to be associated with anemia in 2005 (OR 1.57, CI 1.05–2.34). Maternal anemia at onset of and during pregnancy was a significant risk factor in 2005 (OR 1.98, CI 1.27–3.10) and 2011 (OR 1.43, CI 1.05–1.94).
Conclusions: Although anemia prevalence steadily decreased over the study period, it continues to be a public health problem in Cuba and anemia prevention and control measures should be maintained and strengthened: interventions for women of childbearing age, fostering exclusive breastfeeding of infants through their sixth month, and encouraging compliance with recommendations on complementary feeding per Cuba's nutritional guidelines for children aged ‹ 2 years. Further evaluation is needed to identify the causes of anemia in the population of preschool children.
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