Introduction: Social capital is considered an important determinant of health and overall well-being; however, to the best of our knowledge, literature relating social capital to malnutrition is still relatively small in developing countries. This paper examines the relationships between social capital and chronic malnutrition and anemia in a population of rural coastal children in Ecuador.
Methods: A cross-sectional study in 246 and 282 children under five years and their families was performed. Anemia and chronic malnutrition were analyzed like outcome variables. Variables about social capital were identified based on the Social Capital Assessment Tool of the World Bank. A bivariate and a multivariate logistic regression analysis was conducted.
Results: The prevalence of anemia and chronic malnutrition were 15.0% and 12.8%, respectively. At the multivariate analysis, the variable “mother has borrowed money” had an inverse association with chronic malnutrition (PR 0.43; 95% CI 0.20 – 0.90). Receiving and providing help after de 2016´s earthquake was significantly associated with less prevalence of chronic malnutrition (PR 0.52; 95% IC 0.28 – 0.97), but not with anemia. Nevertheless, mother being part of a community organization was associated with 1.90 times higher prevalence of anemia (95% CI 1.04 – 3.48), when compared with children whose mothers were not part of a community organization.
Conclusions: The relationship between maternal social capital and the nutritional status of their children in rural communities seems to be positively related. However, the mother's participation in community organizations increased the prevalence of anemia in the children. These mixed results highlight the need for further studies focused on the different types of social capital and how they impact on health in deprived areas.