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Malnutrition among older adults in rural Bangladesh challenges the Millennium Development Goals

Ninety per cent of older persons in rural Bangladesh displayed either overt or risk for malnutrition in a collaborative study presented in a dissertation by Tamanna Ferdous from Uppsala University Sept 22, 2009. The results, which are part of a larger international study, challenge the Millenium Development Goals.

- To reach the goals outlined by United Nations in the Millenium Development Goals, e.g. to reduce malnutrition by half by 2015, these are important findings to consider in order to design adequate measures in low income countries, says Tamanna Ferdous.

Malnutrition is one of the major health related problems in Bangladesh. The prevalence of malnutrition in Bangladesh is among the highest in the world. According to the recent Human Development Report, approximately one third of the population in Bangladesh is undernourished. Research and public health activities are yet largely focused on nutritional aspects related to children and maternity.

- As the world's older population is growing dramatically in most of the low-income countries, it is expected that Bangladesh, with a projected 14 million older people, will be one of the 10 nations with the largest older population by 2020, says Tamanna Ferdous.

The study was conducted by public health scientist at icddr,b (, an international research organisation located in Bangladesh, and Karolinska Institute on 850 individuals aged 60 years and older, in Matlab, a rural area in Bangladesh. It shows that the prevalence of malnutrition is alarmingly high (90%) among older persons who are living in their own house in a rural setting in Bangladesh. The analyses of the data was performed in partnership with Uppsala University and Stockholm University and indicate that the causes behind this alarming situation are mainly health related where burden of different diseases, infections, depressive symptoms are the main factors. However, factors such as socio-economic conditions, education are also associated with malnutrition in this population. The study shows that people who are malnourished suffer from limitations in performing every day physical functions and are also slower in cognitive functions.


Contact: Tamanna Ferdous
Uppsala University

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