Risk factors for childhoood pneumonia among the urban poor in Fortaleza, Brazil: A case-control study

W. Fonseca, B. R. Kirkwood, C. G. Victora, S. R. Fuchs, J. A. Flores, C. Misago

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82 Scopus citations


Reported are the results of a case-control study carried out between July 1989 and June 1990 in Fortaleza city, Ceara State, Brazil, to determine the factors that place young children living in urban slum conditions at increased risk of contracting pneumonia. Cases were 650 under-2-year-olds with a radiological diagnosis of pneumonia who were recruited at the main paediatric hospital in the city over a full calendar year. Age matched controls were recruited from the neighbourhood where the cases lived. Cases and controls were compared with respect to a variety of sociodemographic, environmental, reproductive, nutritional, and morbidity factors, and a risk factor questionnaire was administered to the mother of each child or to the child's normal guardian. Cases and controls were also weighed and measured. Malnutrition was the most important risk factor for childhood pneumonia in the study population, with weight-for-age, height-for-age, and weight-for-height also being important risk factors. In view of the high prevalence of stunting in the study population, there is an urgent need to reduce the level of malnutrition as a priority. Attendance at a day care centre was also associated with a high odds ratio. In view of the growing numbers of children attending day care centres in both developing and developed countries, it is essential that ways be identified to improve the design and management of such centres in order to minimize the risk of pneumonia. Increased risks of childhood pneumonia were also associated with low birth weight, non-breast-feeding, crowding, high parity, and incomplete vaccination status, but not with socioeconomic status or environmental variables. Finally, children who had suffered from previous episodes of wheezing or been hospitalized for pneumonia had a greater than threefold increased risk of contracting the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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