BACKGROUND: Lao PDR has identified the need to target adolescent public health concerns. Adolescents suffering from poor health and nutrition during rapid growth and development may be at risk of anaemia due to high iron requirements and the rapid depletion of body iron stores.
OBJECTIVE: This study assessed the prevalence and severity of anaemia among school adolescents in Pholhong district, Vientiane province, Lao PDR.
METHODS: A school-based cross-sectional study was conducted among 405 randomly selected school adolescents across 8 high schools in a rural district of Vientiane province. Adolescents aged 10-18, both male and female, were recruited. Haemoglobin concentration from capillary blood was measured. Descriptive statistics were computed for prevalence of anaemia, anthropometric measurements, socio-economic and socio-demographic variables. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to identify determinants of anaemia among subjects. Results were expressed as odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.
RESULTS: The prevalence of anaemia among adolescents in the study area was 19.4%. There was no difference in the prevalence of anaemia between younger and older adolescents, but the prevalence of anaemia was higher in female adolescents than among males (crude OR = 3.91, 95% CI 2.20 to 6.96). On univariate analysis, coming from an ethnic minority household was found to be significantly associated with anaemia among these adolescents (p < 0.05). After adjusting for other variables, only the effect of sex remained significant. Other factors showing no significant association with anaemia included parents' employment status, family size, and living conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of anaemia in this population is of public health concern with adolescents of both sexes at risk of developing anaemia. The national nutrition programme to control and manage anaemia by distributing a weekly iron and folate supplement for adolescent girls together with a deworming programme twice per year appears to have partly successful but could be strengthened.