When paediatrician colleagues told Mike English that they were seeing a lot of rickets cases in Kenya, he got together with other researchers to find out just how common the problem was, especially because rickets is not considered a major public health problem in the country.
The result was one-year analysis of hospital records of 20,528 children aged one month to five years, admitted at 13 hospitals in three regions of Kenya, done by researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP), and released mid-August, the Daily Nation reports.
NAIROBI HAS THE HIGHEST OCCURENCE
They found that 4.01 per cent of children in two Nairobi hospitals had rickets and 0.92 per cent of children in six hospitals in the highland or semi-arid parts of central Kenya had rickets, an ailment marked by soft and weak bones leading to bone deformities as a result of lack of vitamin D.
Only one out of 9,756 children admitted in six hospitals in western Kenya had rickets. Factors such as maternal and child nutrition, urbanisation and cultural practices might explain these differences in regional rickets cases.
For instance in western Kenya where nutrient-rich indigenous vegetables and fish (dagaa) are consumed regularly or added to weaning flours to make porridge, rickets was less common.
In central Kenya on the other hand, where diets are cereal-based with little diversity and early weaning on cereal porridge, infants were deprived of proteins and micronutrients found in human milk, thus predisposing them to mineral deficiencies, such as rickets and anaemia.
Swaddling of babies in the colder regions of central Kenya, such as in Nyeri whose temperatures in the coldest months drop to lows of 10°C, as compared to warmer weather in the western region where the coldest month yields lows of 22°C in Kisumu, was also associated with rickets.
In the warmer regions, children are minimally clad and thus more exposed to sunlight which prevents rickets. In the same vein, the study found a link between pneumonia in central Kenya and rickets.