Human health status in Russia has declined sharply over the last decade. The massive social changes that have taken place since the fall of the Soviet Union have resulted in increasing morbidity and mortality rates. However, relatively little information is available on the changes in health and disease patterns of Russia's many indigenous populations. The present study examines anthropometric indices of growth status of young children (< 6 years; n = 155), a sensitive index of population health, in three indigenous Evenki communities of Central Siberia between 1991 and 1995. Children of the 1995 sample are significantly shorter, lighter, and leaner than those measured in 1991 and 1992. In 1995, 61% of Evenki children were growth stunted (height-for-age z score < -2.0), as compared to 34% in 1991 and 1992 (p < 0.001). Similarly, the prevalence of low weight-for-age (weight-for-age z score < -2.0) children in the 1995 sample was more than double that of the 1991/92 sample (43% vs. 18%; p < 0.001), and the prevalence of low weight-for-height (weight-for-height z score < -2.0; "wasting") increased from 2% to 17% (p < 0.001). The levels of growth retardation observed in 1995 are comparable to those seen among impoverished third-world populations. Additionally, the declines in linear growth appear to be particularly pronounced in girls, raising the question of whether there may be differential treatment of boys and girls under these conditions of stress. Overall, these results indicate that increased economic marginalization is having a profound effect on the health and well-being of indigenous Siberian groups. Further work is necessary to determine the proximate causes of the disturbing trends, and the potential solutions and interventions.
- Economic change
- Nutritional status
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics