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A typology of dietary and anthropometric measures of nutritional need among children across districts and parliamentary constituencies in India, 2016
Authors: Jacob P. Beckerman-Hsu, Pritha Chatterjee, Rockli Kim, Smriti Sharma, and S. V. Subramanian
Source: Journal of Global Health, DOI: 10.7189/jogh.10.020424
Topic(s): Child feeding
Child health
Child height
Spatial analysis
Country: Asia
Published: DEC 2020
Abstract: Background: Anthropometry is the most commonly used approach for assessing nutritional need among children. Anthropometry alone, however, cannot differentiate between the two immediate causes of undernutrition: inadequate diet vs disease. We present a typology of nutritional need by simultaneously considering dietary and anthropometric measures, dietary and anthropometric failures (DAF), and assess its distribution among children in India. Methods: We used the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, a nationally representative sample of children aged 6-23 months (n = 67 247), from India. Dietary failure was operationalized using World Health Organization (WHO) standards for minimum dietary diversity. Anthropometric failure was operationalized using WHO child growth reference standard z-score of <-2 for height-for-age (stunting), weight-for-age (underweight) and weight-for-height (wasting). We also created a combined anthropometric measure for children who had any one of these three anthropometric failures. We cross-tabulated dietary and anthropometric failures to produce four combinations: Dietary Failure Only (DFO), Anthropometric Failure Only (AFO), Both Failures (BF), and Neither Failure (NF). We estimated the prevalence and distribution of the four types, nationally, and across 640 administrative districts and 543 Parliamentary Constituencies (PCs) in India. Results: Nationally, 80.3% of children had dietary failure and 53.7% had at least one anthropometric failure. The prevalence for the four DAF types was: 44.0% (BF), 36.3% (DFO), 9.8% (AFO), and 9.9% (NF). Dietary and anthropometric measures were discordant for 46.1% of children; these children had nutritional needs identified by only one of the two measures. Nationally, this translates to 12 181 627 children with DFO and 3 281 913 children with AFO; the nutritional needs of these children would not be captured if using only dietary or anthropometric assessment. Substantial variation was observed across districts and PCs for all DAF types. The interquartile ranges for districts were largest for BF (29.8%-53.0%) and lowest for AFO (5.5%-13.4%). Conclusions: The current emphasis on anthropometry for measuring nutritional need should be complemented with diet- and food-based measures. By differentiating inadequate food intake from other causes of undernutrition, the DAF typology brings precision in identifying nutritional needs among children. These insights may improve the development and targeting of nutrition interventions.