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      Undernutrition as an underlying cause of child deaths associated with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles

      , , ,
      The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          Previous analyses derived the relative risk (RR) of dying as a result of low weight-for-age and calculated the proportion of child deaths worldwide attributable to underweight. The objectives were to examine whether the risk of dying because of underweight varies by cause of death and to estimate the fraction of deaths by cause attributable to underweight. Data were obtained from investigators of 10 cohort studies with both weight-for-age category (<-3 SDs, -3 to <-2 SDs, -2 to <-1 SD, and >-1 SD) and cause of death information. All 10 studies contributed information on weight-for-age and risk of diarrhea, pneumonia, and all-cause mortality; however, only 6 studies contributed information on deaths because of measles, and only 3 studies contributed information on deaths because of malaria or fever. With use of weighted random effects models, we related the log mortality rate by cause and anthropometric status in each study to derive cause-specific RRs of dying because of undernutrition. Prevalences of each weight-for-age category were obtained from analyses of 310 national nutrition surveys. With use of the RR and prevalence information, we then calculated the fraction of deaths by cause attributable to undernutrition. The RR of mortality because of low weight-for-age was elevated for each cause of death and for all-cause mortality. Overall, 52.5% of all deaths in young children were attributable to undernutrition, varying from 44.8% for deaths because of measles to 60.7% for deaths because of diarrhea. A significant proportion of deaths in young children worldwide is attributable to low weight-for-age, and efforts to reduce malnutrition should be a policy priority.

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          Most cited references16

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          The World Health Organization Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition: methodology and applications.

          For decades nutritional surveys have been conducted using various definitions, indicators and reference populations to classify child malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition was initiated in 1986 with the objective to collect, standardize, and disseminate child anthropometric data using a standard format. The database includes population-based surveys that fulfil a set of criteria. Data are checked for validity and consistency and raw data sets are analysed following a standard procedure to obtain comparable results. Prevalences of wasting, stunting, under- and overweight in preschool children are presented using z-scores based on the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)/WHO international reference population. New surveys are included on a continuous basis and updates are published bimonthly on the database's web site. To date, the database contains child anthropometric information derived from 846 surveys. With 412 national surveys from 138 countries and 434 sub-national surveys from 155 countries, the database covers 99% and 64% of the under 5 year olds in developing and developed countries, respectively. This wealth of information enables international comparison of nutritional data, helps identifying populations in need, evaluating nutritional and other public health interventions, monitoring trends in child growth, and raising political awareness of nutritional problems. The 15 years experience of the database can be regarded as a success story of international collaboration in standardizing child growth data. We recommend this model for monitoring other nutritional health conditions that as yet lack comparable data.
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            Epidemiologic evidence for a potentiating effect of malnutrition on child mortality.

            Despite broad agreement that severe malnutrition contributes to child mortality in developing countries and that malnutrition has a physiologically synergistic relationship with morbidity, evidence of an epidemiologic synergism has been lacking. Also, the literature provides conflicting evidence concerning the existence of elevated mortality among children with mild to moderate malnutrition. A review of published population-based studies of anthropometry-mortality relationships was undertaken to clarify these relationships. Six studies with the relevant data were reanalyzed to test for synergism and elevated mortality in mild to moderate malnutrition. The results demonstrate that mortality increases exponentially with declining weight for age. This effect is consistent across studies and there is no apparent threshold effect on mortality. The primary difference across studies is in baseline levels of mortality, which determine the quantitative impact of malnutrition on mortality in a population. These results indicate that mild to moderate malnutrition is associated with elevated mortality and that there is an epidemiologic synergism between malnutrition and morbidity. This previously undemonstrated finding has significant implications for child survival policies and research.
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              Anthropometric assessment of energy-protein malnutrition and subsequent risk of mortality among preschool aged children.

              This paper examines the usefulness of various anthropometric classification systems of nutritional status in prognosticating the subsequent risk of mortality among 2019 children aged 13 to 23 months residing in a rural area of Bangladesh. The indices investigated included: weight-for-age; weight-for-height; height-for-age; arm circumference-for-age; arm circumference-for-height; weight quotient; and height quotient. Cross-sectional anthropometry was conducted during October 1975 to January 1976 and the mortality experience of the study children was followed prospectively over 24 months. Results indicated that severely malnourished children, according to all indices, experienced substantially higher mortality risk. Normal, mild, and moderately malnourished children all experienced the same risk. All indices were found to discriminate mortality risk; weight/age and arm circumference/age were strongest and weight/height weakest. For each index, a threshold level was noted below which mortality risk climbed sharply. The discriminating power of anthropometry was enhanced when maternal weight, maternal height, or housing size were included.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                0002-9165
                1938-3207
                July 2004
                July 01 2004
                July 2004
                July 01 2004
                : 80
                : 1
                : 193-198
                Article
                10.1093/ajcn/80.1.193
                15213048
                9ef25794-a086-4338-a0e5-e1ae547dbb7e
                © 2004
                History

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