Caregiver's health is strong predictor of orphan's health

June 13, 2012

The health of a caregiver is the most important predictor of orphan health, according to a new Duke University study that spans five less-wealthy nations in Africa and Asia. More important than an orphan's geographic location, living conditions or past trauma, the Duke study finds that an unhealthy caregiver likely means an unhealthy child.

The findings prompt Duke researchers to call for international orphan policies to place greater attention on assessing and treating an orphan and his caregiver's health together, rather than focusing solely on children's health.

Published in today, the study of more than 1,300 randomly selected and abandoned children from six diverse settings found strong and consistent associations between poorer and poorer health among their caregivers. One in five children was in fair or , with one in four reporting symptoms like fever, cough and/or diarrhea in the previous two weeks. Forty-five percent of the caregivers in the study reported their own health to be fair or poor, and one out of four also had similar symptoms in the past two weeks.

Children in fair or poor health were also more likely to have suffered additional beyond losing a parent and to receive fewer than three meals a day. However, children whose caregivers were more involved in their lives and well-being were less likely to be sick or unhealthy.

The multi-site study included community-dwelling orphans ages 6-12 and their caregivers from six culturally- and economically-diverse sites across five countries: Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania. All of the children in the study have survived the death of one parent or were abandoned by both parents.

Of 153 million children orphaned worldwide, 145 million reside in less-wealthy nations where high rates of HIV/AIDS and other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis claim thousands of lives every day.

"This study produces strong evidence to inform policy and resource allocation relevant to the health of this large vulnerable child population worldwide," said Nathan Thielman, lead author and associate professor of medicine and global health at the Duke Global Health Institute. "Specifically, policies that promote orphan well-being should include health assessments and interventions that target the caregiver-child dyad."

Researchers say a lack of economic resources may be a contributor to poor child health. Orphans are often cared for in households headed by females or the elderly; these households may have less money and are less likely to cover medical expenses associated with caregiver illness, further limiting their ability to provide adequate nutrition and access to health care for the child.

The researchers say their study provides strong support for establishing more family-based clinics in resource-poor settings that offer services and treatment to both children and their . They also suggest adding comprehensive caregiver health assessments to existing tools used to measure the well-being of orphans.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations

September 20, 2017
First, the good news. Washington State University researchers have found that a rat exposed to a popular herbicide while in the womb developed no diseases and showed no apparent health effects aside from lower weight.

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

Today's US teens about three years behind '70s generation

September 19, 2017
Teenagers in America today are about three years behind their counterparts from the 1970s when it comes to taking up sex, drinking alcohol and working for pay, researchers said Tuesday.

India has avoided 1 million child deaths since 2005, new study concludes

September 19, 2017
India has avoided about 1 million deaths of children under age five since 2005, driven by significant reductions in mortality from pneumonia, diarrhea, tetanus and measles, according to new research published today.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers

September 19, 2017
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.