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      Global Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health — So Near and Yet So Far

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      New England Journal of Medicine

      Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries

          Maternal and child malnutrition in low-income and middle-income countries encompasses both undernutrition and a growing problem with overweight and obesity. Low body-mass index, indicative of maternal undernutrition, has declined somewhat in the past two decades but continues to be prevalent in Asia and Africa. Prevalence of maternal overweight has had a steady increase since 1980 and exceeds that of underweight in all regions. Prevalence of stunting of linear growth of children younger than 5 years has decreased during the past two decades, but is higher in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere and globally affected at least 165 million children in 2011; wasting affected at least 52 million children. Deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc result in deaths; deficiencies of iodine and iron, together with stunting, can contribute to children not reaching their developmental potential. Maternal undernutrition contributes to fetal growth restriction, which increases the risk of neonatal deaths and, for survivors, of stunting by 2 years of age. Suboptimum breastfeeding results in an increased risk for mortality in the first 2 years of life. We estimate that undernutrition in the aggregate--including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding--is a cause of 3·1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths in 2011. Maternal overweight and obesity result in increased maternal morbidity and infant mortality. Childhood overweight is becoming an increasingly important contributor to adult obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases. The high present and future disease burden caused by malnutrition in women of reproductive age, pregnancy, and children in the first 2 years of life should lead to interventions focused on these groups. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Evidence-based interventions for improvement of maternal and child nutrition: what can be done and at what cost?

            Maternal undernutrition contributes to 800,000 neonatal deaths annually through small for gestational age births; stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to underlie nearly 3·1 million child deaths annually. Progress has been made with many interventions implemented at scale and the evidence for effectiveness of nutrition interventions and delivery strategies has grown since The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition in 2008. We did a comprehensive update of interventions to address undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in women and children and used standard methods to assess emerging new evidence for delivery platforms. We modelled the effect on lives saved and cost of these interventions in the 34 countries that have 90% of the world's children with stunted growth. We also examined the effect of various delivery platforms and delivery options using community health workers to engage poor populations and promote behaviour change, access and uptake of interventions. Our analysis suggests the current total of deaths in children younger than 5 years can be reduced by 15% if populations can access ten evidence-based nutrition interventions at 90% coverage. Additionally, access to and uptake of iodised salt can alleviate iodine deficiency and improve health outcomes. Accelerated gains are possible and about a fifth of the existing burden of stunting can be averted using these approaches, if access is improved in this way. The estimated total additional annual cost involved for scaling up access to these ten direct nutrition interventions in the 34 focus countries is Int$9·6 billion per year. Continued investments in nutrition-specific interventions to avert maternal and child undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies through community engagement and delivery strategies that can reach poor segments of the population at greatest risk can make a great difference. If this improved access is linked to nutrition-sensitive approaches--ie, women's empowerment, agriculture, food systems, education, employment, social protection, and safety nets--they can greatly accelerate progress in countries with the highest burden of maternal and child undernutrition and mortality. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Trends in mild, moderate, and severe stunting and underweight, and progress towards MDG 1 in 141 developing countries: a systematic analysis of population representative data

              Summary Background There is little information on country trends in the complete distributions of children's anthropometric status, which are needed to assess all levels of mild to severe undernutrition. We aimed to estimate trends in the distributions of children's anthropometric status and assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG 1) target of halving the prevalence of weight-for-age Z score (WAZ) below −2 between 1990 and 2015 or reaching a prevalence of 2·3% or lower. Methods We collated population-representative data on height-for-age Z score (HAZ) and WAZ calculated with the 2006 WHO child growth standards. Our data sources were health and nutrition surveys, summary statistics from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, and summary statistics from reports of other national and international agencies. We used a Bayesian hierarchical mixture model to estimate Z-score distributions. We quantified the uncertainty of our estimates, assessed their validity, compared their performance to alternative models, and assessed sensitivity to key modelling choices. Findings In developing countries, mean HAZ improved from −1·86 (95% uncertainty interval −2·01 to −1·72) in 1985 to −1·16 (–1·29 to −1·04) in 2011; mean WAZ improved from −1·31 (–1·41 to −1·20) to −0·84 (–0·93 to −0·74). Over this period, prevalences of moderate-and-severe stunting declined from 47·2% (44·0 to 50·3) to 29·9% (27·1 to 32·9) and underweight from 30·1% (26·7 to 33·3) to 19·4% (16·5 to 22·2). The largest absolute improvements were in Asia and the largest relative reductions in prevalence in southern and tropical Latin America. Anthropometric status worsened in sub-Saharan Africa until the late 1990s and improved thereafter. In 2011, 314 (296 to 331) million children younger than 5 years were mildly, moderately, or severely stunted and 258 (240 to 274) million were mildly, moderately, or severely underweight. Developing countries as a whole have less than a 5% chance of meeting the MDG 1 target; but 61 of these 141 countries have a 50–100% chance. Interpretation Macroeconomic shocks, structural adjustment, and trade policy reforms in the 1980s and 1990s might have been responsible for worsening child nutritional status in sub-Saharan Africa. Further progress in the improvement of children's growth and nutrition needs equitable economic growth and investment in pro-poor food and primary care programmes, especially relevant in the context of the global economic crisis. Funding The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Medical Research Council.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                December 05 2013
                December 05 2013
                : 369
                : 23
                : 2226-2235
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMra1111853
                24304052
                © 2013
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