Geostatistical analysis, web-based mapping, and environmental determinants of under-5 stunting: evidence from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey

Elsevier, Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, Issue 6, June 2021, Pages e347–e355.
Authors: 
Justice Moses K Aheto, Getachew A Dagne

Background

Stunting rates in children younger than 5 years are among the most important health indicators globally. At the national level, malnutrition accounts for about 40% of under-5 deaths in Ghana. Disease risk mapping provides opportunities for disease surveillance and targeted interventions. We aimed to estimate and map under-5 stunting prevalence in Ghana, with the goal of identifying communities at higher risk where interventions and further research can be targeted.

Methods

For this modelling study, we used data from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey. Analyses were done on 2734 children residing in 415 geographical clusters. The outcome variable was the number of stunted children younger than 5 years in each sampled cluster. We employed a Bayesian geostatistical model to investigate both measured and unmeasured spatial risk factors for child stunting, comparing the performance of non-spatial (adjusting for selected covariates without spatial correlation), spatial (including spatial correlation), and null spatial (without the selected covariates) models. We then visualised the stunting prevalence across Ghana by mapping the predicted prevalence and exceedance probabilities to resolutions as refined as 5 km × 5 km.

Findings

In 2014, 535 (19·6%) of 2734 children surveyed in Ghana were stunted. Elevation (log odds mean −0·0017, 95% credible interval −0·0034 to −0·0001), precipitation (0·0403, 0·0192 to 0·0615), and aridity (–3·7013, −6·5478 to −0·8723) were environmental and climatic factors associated with stunting in the non-spatial model, but were not significant in the spatial model. Substantial geographical variations in prevalence of childhood stunting were found. The predicted mean stunting prevalence was 27·7% (SD 3·7%) with predicted prevalence ranging from 4·2% to 45·1% across Ghana. Children residing in parts of the Northern region were at highest risk of stunting, whereas parts of the Greater Accra, Brong-Ahafo, Ashanti, and Eastern regions showed some of the lowest prevalence.

Interpretation

There are substantial geographical differences in childhood stunting across Ghana. Our prevalence maps can be used as an effective tool to identify communities that require targeted interventions by programme managers and implementers, as part of an overall strategy to reduce the burden of malnutrition in a country with limited public health resources.