The impact of vitamin A supplementation on mortality inequalities among children in Nepal
Objective: This paper examines gender, caste and economic differentials in child mortality in the context of a cluster-randomized trial of vitamin A distribution, in order to determine whether or not the intervention narrowed these differentials.
Design: The study involved secondary analysis of data from a placebo-controlled randomized field trial of vitamin A supplements. The study took place between 1989–1991 in rural Sarlahi District of Nepal, with 30?059 children age 6 to 60 months. The main outcome measures were differences in mortality between boys and girls, between highest Hindu castes and others, and between the poorest quintile and the four other quintiles.
Results: Without vitamin A, girls in rural Nepal experience 26.1 deaths per 1000, which is 8.3 deaths more than the comparison population of boys. With vitamin A the mortality disadvantage of girls is nearly completely attenuated, at only 1.41 additional deaths per 1000 relative to boys. Vitamin A supplementation also narrowed mortality differentials among Hindu castes, but did not lower the concentration of mortality across quintiles of asset ownership. The vitamin A-related attenuation in mortality disadvantage from gender and caste is statistically significant.
Conclusions: We conclude that universal supplementation with vitamin A narrowed differentials in child death across gender and caste in rural Nepal. Assuring high-coverage vitamin A distribution throughout Nepal could help reduce inequalities in child survival in this population.