Drivers of malnutrition among late adolescent and young women in rural Pakistan: A cross-sectional assessment of the MaPPS trial

Jo Anna B. Baxter, Yaqub Wasan, Amjad Hussain, Sajid B. Soofi, Imran Ahmed, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

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Objective This study aimed to characterise the burden of malnutrition and assess how underlying determinants at the structural and intermediary levels contributed to malnutrition among late adolescent and young women in rural Pakistan. Design Cross-sectional enrolment data assessment. Setting and participants This study was conducted using data from adolescent and young women (n=25 447) enrolled in the Matiari emPowerment and Preconception Supplementation Trial, collected from June 2017 to July 2018 in Matiari District, Pakistan. The WHO-based cut-offs were applied to anthropometric measures to estimate body mass index (BMI) categories (underweight, overweight, obese) and stunting. Hierarchical models were generated to evaluate the association between the determinants with BMI categories and stunting among late adolescent girls and young women, respectively. Primary and secondary outcome measures The main outcomes of interest were BMI categories and stunting. Explanatory variables included measures of socioeconomic status, education, occupation, health, well-being, food security, empowerment and food practices. Results Regardless of age group, the prevalence of underweight was high (36.9%; 95% CI 36.3% to 37.5%). More late adolescent girls were underweight, while more young women were overweight/obese (p<0.001). Stunting affected 9.2% (95% CI 8.9% to 9.6%) of participants, of which 35.7% were additionally underweight and 7.3% overweight/obese. Compared with those in the normal weight category, those underweight were more likely to be impoverished and less empowered. Those overweight/obese were more likely to be from a higher wealth quintile and food secure. Increased education level and food security were associated with reductions stunting risk. Conclusions This study informs the data gap and need for comprehensive research on adolescent nutritional status. Findings suggest factors related to poverty played an important, underlying role in undernutrition among participants. Commitment to improving the nutritional status of all adolescent and young women in Pakistan will be critical given the observed burden of malnutrition. Trial registration number NCT03287882.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere063734
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2023


  • community child health
  • nutrition & dietetics
  • public health


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