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Prevalence of wasting among under 6-month-old infants in developing countries and implications of new case definitions using WHO growth standards: a secondary data analysis.
Authors: Kerac, Hannah Blencowe, Carlos Grijalva-Eternod, Marie McGrath, Jeremy Shoham, Tim J Cole, Andrew Seal
Source: Archives of Disease in Childhood , 2 February 2011 doi:10.1136/adc.2010.191882
Topic(s): Child health
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: JAN 2011
Abstract: Abstract Objectives To determine wasting prevalence among infants aged under 6 months and describe the effects of new case definitions based on WHO growth standards. Design Secondary data analysis of demographic and health survey datasets. Setting 21 developing countries. Population 15 534 infants under 6 months and 147 694 children aged 6 to under 60 months (median 5072 individuals/country, range 1710–45 398). Wasting was defined as weight-for-height z-score <-2, moderate wasting as -3 to <-2 z-scores, severe wasting as z-score <-3. Results Using National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) growth references, the nationwide prevalence of wasting in infant under-6-month ranges from 1.1% to 15% (median 3.7%, IQR 1.8–6.5%; ~3 million wasted infants <6 months worldwide). Prevalence is more than doubled using WHO standards: 2.0–34% (median 15%, IQR 6.2–17%; ~8.5 million wasted infants <6 months worldwide). Prevalence differences using WHO standards are more marked for infants under 6 months than children, with the greatest increase being for severe wasting (indicated by a regression line slope of 3.5 for infants <6 months vs 1.7 for children). Moderate infant-6-month wasting is also greater using WHO, whereas moderate child wasting is 0.9 times the NCHS prevalence. Conclusions Whether defined by NCHS references or WHO standards, wasting among infants under 6 months is prevalent in many of the developing countries examined in this study. Use of WHO standards to define wasting results in a greater disease burden, particularly for severe wasting. Policy makers, programme managers and clinicians in child health and nutrition programmes should consider resource and risk/benefit implications of changing case definitions.