A Study of Hunger, BMI, and the Occurrence of Infectious Disease in Rural Western Kenya




Hammond, Molly

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The purpose of this study was to determine the state of food insecurity in a poverty-stricken community in western Kenya using a hunger scale questionnaire (HSQ) to investigate the three-fold relationship between food insecurity, body mass index (BMI), and infectious disease. This cross-sectional study analyzed data from a clinical sample of 480 patients of the Luo ethnicity who completed the HSQ in May 2011. The results showed that 94.37% of patients were designated as food-insecure, while merely 5.63% were food-secure. Out of the 187 cases of infectious disease, 180 cases were found in food-insecure patients (92.26%). Of the 6.88% of patients who had worms, none were food-secure. The most striking finding was the association between food insecurity, age, and BMI: 51.20% of food-insecure youths had BMIs within the severely thin range, compared to only 3.73% of food-insecure adults. The majority of adults, regardless of food insecurity, had BMIs concentrated in the normal range (p = <.0001). In addition to determining the severity of the hunger crisis in this community, these findings demonstrate the susceptibility of youth to food insecurity’s threatening consequences: low BMI. This study adds support for the use of the HSQ as an effective predictor for BMI and for continued research investigating the potential role of the HSQ as a determinant of the occurrence of infectious disease.