Health Status and Anthropometric Changes in Resettled Refugee Children

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Abstract

Background:

Recently the United States has experienced an increase in refugees. Pediatric refugees are at risk for health and nutrition problems. Literature on longitudinal change in nutritional status of resettled pediatric refugees is scant.

Objective:

The present study reports the health and nutritional status of pediatric refugees and tracks changes in nutritional status.

Methods:

Data were extracted retrospectively from the records of a community health center in Buffalo, NY. Two cohorts of refugees (0–18 years) were selected. Cohort A was followed during 5 years and consisted of 225 subjects whose initial visit occurred between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009. The 199 subjects in cohort B had an initial visit between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 and were followed for 1 year. Cohort B was chosen because vitamin levels were available only for this group. Descriptive and anthropometric data, infectious disease status, and initial vitamin and hemoglobin levels were recorded. Height-for-age (HFA) z scores and body mass index (BMI) z scores were computed. Longitudinal changes were analyzed.

Results:

The cohorts A and B differed in country of origin and infectious disease burden. On arrival, both cohorts exhibited HFA z scores reflecting short stature. BMI z scores were normal. HFA and BMI z scores increased during 5 years and 1 year for cohorts A and B, respectively. Anemia, vitamin D deficiency, and lead toxicity were identified.

Conclusions:

Resettled pediatric refugees were short. Some were stunted. Catch-up growth, however, occurred. There were increases in HFA and BMI z scores. Vitamin D deficiency, anemia, and lead toxicity were documented.

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