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Prevalence thresholds for wasting, overweight and stunting in children under 5 years

de Onis, Mercedes, Borghi, Elaine, Arimond, Mary, Webb, Patrick, Croft, Trevor, Saha, Kuntal, De-Regil, Luz Maria, Thuita, Faith, Heidkamp, Rebecca, Krasevec, Julia, Hayashi, Chika, Flores-Ayala, Rafael
Public health nutrition 2019 v.22 no.1 pp. 175-179
World Health Organization, childhood obesity, children, growth retardation, malnutrition, monitoring, multipliers, national surveys, nutrition monitoring, reference standards, terminology
Prevalence ranges to classify levels of wasting and stunting have been used since the 1990s for global monitoring of malnutrition. Recent developments prompted a re-examination of existing ranges and development of new ones for childhood overweight. The present paper reports from the WHO–UNICEF Technical Expert Advisory Group on Nutrition Monitoring. Thresholds were developed in relation to sd of the normative WHO Child Growth Standards. The international definition of ‘normal’ (2 sd below/above the WHO standards median) defines the first threshold, which includes 2·3 % of the area under the normalized distribution. Multipliers of this ‘very low’ level (rounded to 2·5 %) set the basis to establish subsequent thresholds. Country groupings using the thresholds were produced using the most recent set of national surveys. One hundred and thirty-four countries. Children under 5 years. For wasting and overweight, thresholds are: ‘very low’ (<2·5 %), ‘low’ (≈1–2 times 2·5 %), ‘medium’ (≈2–4 times 2·5 %), ‘high’ (≈4–6 times 2·5 %) and ‘very high’ (>≈6 times 2·5 %). For stunting, thresholds are: ‘very low’ (<2·5 %), ‘low’ (≈1–4 times 2·5 %), ‘medium’ (≈4–8 times 2·5 %), ‘high’ (≈8–12 times 2·5 %) and ‘very high’ (>≈12 times 2·5 %). The proposed thresholds minimize changes and keep coherence across anthropometric indicators. They can be used for descriptive purposes to map countries according to severity levels; by donors and global actors to identify priority countries for action; and by governments to trigger action and target programmes aimed at achieving ‘low’ or ‘very low’ levels. Harmonized terminology will help avoid confusion and promote appropriate interventions.