• Beyond wasted and stunted—a major shift to fight child undernutrition

      Wells, JCK; Briend, A; Boyd, EM; Berkely, JA; Hall, A; Isanaka, S; Webb, P; Khara, T; Dolan, C (Elsevier, 2019-09-11)
      Child undernutrition refers broadly to the condition in which food intake is inadequate to meet a child's needs for physiological function, growth, and the capacity to respond to illness. Since the 1970s, nutritionists have categorised undernutrition in two major ways, either as wasted (ie, low weight for height, or small mid-upper arm circumference) or stunted (ie, low height for age). This approach, although useful for identifying populations at risk of undernutrition, creates several problems: the focus is on children who have already become undernourished, and this approach draws an artificial distinction between two idealised types of undernourished children that are widely interpreted as indicative of either acute or chronic undernutrition. This distinction in turn has led to the separation of programmatic approaches to prevent and treat child undernutrition. In the past 3 years, research has shown that individual children are at risk of both conditions, might be born with both, pass from one state to the other over time, and accumulate risks to their health and life through their combined effects. The current emphasis on identifying children who are already wasted or stunted detracts attention from the larger number of children undergoing the process of becoming undernourished. We call for a major shift in thinking regarding how we assess child undernutrition, and how prevention and treatment programmes can best address the diverse causes and dynamic biological processes that underlie undernutrition.
    • Prevention of child wasting: Results of a Child Health & Nutrition Research Initiative (CHNRI) prioritisation exercise

      Frison, S; Angood, C; Khara, T; Bahwere, P; Black, R; Briend, A; Connell, N; Fenn, B; Isanaka, S; James, P; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-02-12)
      BACKGROUND: An estimated 49.5 million children under five years of age are wasted. There is a lack of robust studies on effective interventions to prevent wasting. The aim of this study was to identify and prioritise the main outstanding research questions in relation to wasting prevention to inform future research agendas. METHOD: A research prioritisation exercise was conducted following the Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative method. Identified research gaps were compiled from multiple sources, categorised into themes and streamlined into forty research questions by an expert group. A survey was then widely circulated to assess research questions according to four criteria. An overall research priority score was calculated to rank questions. FINDINGS: The prioritised questions have a strong focus on interventions. The importance of the early stages of life in determining later experiences of wasting was highlighted. Other important themes included the identification of at-risk infants and young children early in the progression of wasting and the roles of existing interventions and the health system in prevention. DISCUSSION: These results indicate consensus to support more research on the pathways to wasting encompassing the in-utero environment, on the early period of infancy and on the process of wasting and its early identification. They also reinforce how little is known about impactful interventions for the prevention of wasting. CONCLUSION: This exercise provides a five-year investment case for research that could most effectively improve on-the-ground programmes to prevent child wasting and inform supportive policy change.