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Thinness in young schoolchildren in Serbia: another case of the double burden of malnutrition?

  • Visnja Djordjic (a1), Jagoda Jorga (a2), Snezana Radisavljevic (a3), Ivana Milanovic (a3), Predrag Bozic (a4) and Sergej M Ostojic (a1) (a2)...

Thinness is rarely highlighted or regularly monitored among children in developed countries although it may be rather frequent and pose a significant risk to children’s health. We aimed to describe the prevalence of mild, moderate and severe thinness among young Serbian schoolchildren.


Cross-sectional study of schoolchildren aged 6–9 years. Children were assessed for weight, height and BMI as part of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative in Serbia. Thinness grades were defined as gender- and age-specific cut-offs for BMI according to the International Obesity Task Force criteria.


Serbia, September to November 2015.


Students (n 4861) in grades 2 and 3 (6–9 years, 2397 girls).


Overall prevalence of thinness in Serbian schoolchildren was 9·6 %. Mild thinness was clearly the largest category with a prevalence of 7·6 %, moderate thinness was present in 1·7 % of children and severe thinness was found in 0·3 % of children. OR indicated a significant risk of being thin for girls (1·44 times higher compared with boys) and children attending schools with no health-focused educational programme (1·57 times more likely to be thin than peers enrolled in schools with such programmes). In addition, OR for thinness tended to be 1·23 times higher in children living in an economically disadvantaged region of Serbia (P=0·06).


A rather high prevalence of thinness highlights this malnutrition disorder as an emerging health issue that should trigger public health policies to tackle thinness, especially in girls of young age and children living in economically disadvantaged areas.

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