Does Economic Growth Improve Child Health?: Understanding Discordant Trends in Malnutrition Indicators during the Economic Growth in Ghana

Jemima A. Frimpong, University of Pennsylvania

Policymakers have long argued that economic growth in developing countries will positively impact child health. We examine child nutrition in Ghana during the economic growth of the 1980s and 1990s. Data show that stunting declined from 30% in 1988 to 21% in 1998, but sharply increased to 27% in 2003. Wasting followed an entire opposite path, while underweight progressively fell from 30% to 24% during this period. These different responses to growth reflect differences in the underlying factors generating these outcomes. Improvement in underweight was consistent with the positive household effects of macroeconomic growth, but increase in stunting after 1998 responded to the decline in health care utilization following the reform of the health care system. The fraction of children presenting any the three forms of malnutrition remained stable at around 40% during the period of growth, indicating that macro-level economic growth does not necessary translate into better child health.

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Presented in Session 143: Child Malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants and Program Evaluations