Socio-emotional and adaptive behaviour in children treated for severe anaemia at Lira Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda: a prospective cohort study

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Severe anaemia is a global public health challenge commonly associated with morbidity and mortality among children<5 years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, less is known about the behavioural performance of children<5 years surviving severe anaemia in low resource settings. We investigated social-emotional and adaptive behaviour in children<5 years diagnosed with severe anaemia in Northern Uganda.

Methods: We conducted a hospital based prospective cohort study among children 6—42 months who were treated for severe anaemia (n=171) at Lira Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda. Socio-emotional and adaptive behaviour were assessed 14 days post discharge using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition. Age-adjusted z-scores for each domain were calculated using scores from healthy community children (n=88) from the same environment for each age category. Multiple linear regression was used to compare z-scores in the socialemotional and adaptive behaviour scales between the two groups after adjusting for weight-for-age z-score, social economic status, mother’s education, father’s education and father’s employment on all the scales.

Results: Compared with healthy community controls, children with severe anaemia had poorer [adjusted mean scores (standard error)], socio-emotional [−0.29, (0.05) vs. 0.01, (0.08), P=0.002]; but not overall/ composite adaptive behaviour [−0.10, (0.05) vs. −0.01, (0.07), P=0.343]. Within the adaptive behaviour subscales, children with SA displayed signifcantly poorer scores on the community use [adjusted mean score (standard error)], [−0.63, (0.10) vs. −0.01, (0.13), P<0.001]; and leisure [−0.35, (0.07) vs. −0.02, (0.07), P=0.036] skills.

Conclusion: This study suggests that severe anaemia in children<5 years is associated with poor social-emotional scores in the short-term post clinical recovery in Northern Uganda. We recommend long-term follow-up to determine the course of these problems and appropriate interventions to reduce the behavioural burden among children<5 years surviving severe anaemia in Uganda.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication ( Name of Journal)

BioMed Central

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.