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Livestock Ownership Among Rural Households and Child Morbidity and Mortality: An Analysis of Demographic Health Survey Data from 30 Sub-Saharan African Countries (2005–2015)

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  • 1 Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California.
  • | 2 Public Health Institute, Oakland, California.
  • | 3 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Children living in homes with livestock may have both an increased risk of enteric infections and improved access to food, and therefore improved nutritional status. Few studies, however, have characterized these relationships in tandem. This study investigated the association between child health and household ownership of livestock. A cross-sectional study was performed using data from Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 30 sub-Saharan African countries with 215,971 rural children under 5 years of age from 2005 to 2015. Logistic regression was performed for each country to estimate the relationship between a log2 increase in the number of livestock owned by the household and three child-health outcomes: 2-week prevalence of diarrhea, stunting, and all-cause mortality. Results for each country were combined using meta-analyses. Most countries (22 of 30) displayed an odds ratio (OR) less than 1 for child stunting associated with livestock (pooled OR = 0.97; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.95, 0.99). The results for diarrhea were more even with 14 countries displaying ORs greater than 1 and 10 displaying ORs less than 1. Most countries (22 of 30) displayed an OR greater than 1 for child mortality (pooled OR = 1.04; 95% CI = 1.02, 1.06). All meta-analyses displayed significant heterogeneity by country. Our analysis is consistent with the theory that livestock may have a dual role as protective against stunting, an indicator of chronic malnutrition, and a risk factor for all-cause mortality in children, which may be linked to acute infections. The heterogeneity by country, however, indicates more data are needed on specific household livestock management practices.

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Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Joseph N. S. Eisenberg, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: jnse@umich.edu

Financial support: This work was partially supported by Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (K01 TW 009484). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Authors' addresses: Maneet Kaur, Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, E-mail: maneet.kaur@ucsf.edu. Jay P. Graham, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA, E-mail: jay.graham@phi.org. Joseph N. S. Eisenberg, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, E-mail: jnse@umich.edu.

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