Open Access Open Badges Research article

Physical growth during the first year of life. A longitudinal study in rural and urban areas of Hanoi, Vietnam

Huong Thu Nguyen12*, Bo Eriksson2, Liem Thanh Nguyen1, Chuc Thi Kim Nguyen3, Max Petzold24, Göran Bondjers4 and Henry Ascher2

Author Affiliations

1 Research Institute for Child Health, National Hospital of Pediatrics, 18/879 La Thanh Road, Dong Da district, Hanoi, Vietnam

2 Nordic School of Public Health, PO Box 12133, SE-402 42 Gothenburg, Sweden

3 Family Medicine Department, Hanoi Medical University, No.1 Ton That Tung Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

4 Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, PO Box 440, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-26

Published: 12 March 2012



Good infant growth is important for future health. Assessing growth is common in pediatric care all over the world, both at the population and individual level. There are few studies of birth weight and growth studies comparing urban and rural communities in Vietnam. The first aim is to describe and compare the birth weight distributions and physical growth (weight and length) of children during their first year in one rural and one urban area of Hanoi Vietnam. The second aim is to study associations between the anthropometric outcomes and indicators of the economic and educational situations.


Totally 1,466 children, born from 1st March, 2009 to June 2010, were followed monthly from birth to 12 months of age in two Health and Demographic Surveillance Sites; one rural and one urban. In all, 14,199 measurements each of weight and length were made. Birth weight was recorded separately. Information about demographic conditions, education, occupation and economic conditions of persons and households was obtained from household surveys. Fractional Polynomial models and standard statistical methods were used for description and analysis.


Urban infants have higher birth weight and gain weight faster than rural infants. The mean birth weight for urban boys and girls were 3,298 grams and 3,203 grams as compared to 3,105 grams and 3,057 grams for rural children. At 90 days, the urban boys were estimated to be 4.1% heavier than rural boys. This difference increased to 7.2% at 360 days. The corresponding difference for girls was 3.4% and 10.5%. The differences for length were comparatively smaller. Both birth weight and growth were statistically significantly and positively associated with economic conditions and mother education.


Birth weight was lower and the growth, weight and length, considerably slower in the rural area, for boys as well as for girls. The results support the hypothesis that the rather drastic differences in maternal education and economic conditions lead to poor nutrition for mothers and children in turn causing inferior birth weight and growth.