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To compare the responsiveness of different anthropometric indicators for measuring nutritional stress among children in developing countries.
Growth was studied within 6-month intervals in a rural Senegalese community during one dry and two rainy (hungry) seasons. Responsiveness was defined as the change divided by the standard deviation of each anthropometric indicator. Contrast was defined as the difference in responsiveness between dry and rainy seasons.
The study was conducted in Niakhar, a rural area of Senegal under demographic surveillance, with contrasted food and morbidity situations between rainy and dry seasons.
Some 5000 children under 5 years of age were monitored at 6-month intervals in 1983–1984. The present analysis was carried out on a sub-sample of children aged 6–23 months with complete measures, totalling 2803 children-intervals.
In both univariate and multivariate analysis, mid-upper arm circumference was found to be more responsive to nutritional stress than the commonly used weight-for-height Z-score (contrast = −0·64 for mid-upper arm circumference v. −0·53 for weight-for-height Z-score). Other discriminant indicators were: muscle circumference, weight-for-height, BMI and triceps skinfold. Height, head circumference and subscapular skinfold had no discriminating power for measuring the net effect of nutritional stress during the rainy season.
The use of mid-upper arm circumference for assessing nutritional stress in community surveys should be considered and preferred to other nutritional indicators. Strict standardization procedures for measuring mid-upper arm circumference are required for optimal use.
The present study aimed to compare two situations of endemic malnutrition among <5-year-old African children and to estimate the incidence, the duration and the case fatality of severe wasting episodes.
Secondary analysis of longitudinal studies, conducted several years ago, which allowed incidence and duration to be calculated from transition rates. The first site was Niakhar in Senegal, an area under demographic surveillance, where we followed a cohort of children in 1983–5. The second site was Bwamanda in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we followed a cohort of children in 1989–92. Both studies enrolled about 5000 children, who were followed by routine visits and systematic anthropometric assessment, every 6 months in the first case and every 3 months in the second case.
Niakhar had less stunting, more wasting and higher death rates than Bwamanda. Differences in cause-specific mortality included more diarrhoeal diseases, more marasmus, but less malaria and severe anaemia in Niakhar. Severe wasting had a higher incidence, a higher prevalence and a more marked age profile in Niakhar. However, despite the differences, the estimated mean durations of episodes of severe wasting, calculated by multi-state life table, were similar in the two studies (7·5 months). Noteworthy were the differences in the prevalence and incidence of severe wasting depending on the anthropometric indicator (weight-for-height Z-score ≤–3.0 or mid upper-arm circumference <110 mm) and the reference system (National Center for Health Statistics 1977, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2000 or Multicentre Growth Reference Study 2006).
Severe wasting appeared as one of the leading cause of death among under-fives: it had a high incidence (about 2 % per child-semester), long duration of episodes and high case fatality rates (6 to 12 %).
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