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Bull World Health Organ. 2002;80(4):282-91.

Prevalence of nutritional wasting in populations: building explanatory models using secondary data.

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Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.



To understand how social context affects the nutritional status of populations, as reflected by the prevalence of wasting in children under 5 years of age from Africa, Latin America, and Asia; to present a systematic way of building models for wasting prevalence, using a conceptual framework for the determinants of malnutrition; and to examine the feasibility of using readily available data collected over time to build models of wasting prevalence in populations.


Associations between prevalence of wasting and environmental variables were examined in the three regions. General linear mixed models were fitted using anthropometric survey data for countries within each region.


Low birth weight (LBW), measles incidence, and access to a safe water supply explained 64% of wasting variability in Asia. In Latin America, LBW and survey year explained 38%; in Africa, LBW, survey year, and adult literacy explained 7%.


LBW emerged as a predictor of wasting prevalence in all three regions. Actions regarding women's rights may have an effect on the nutritional status of children since LBW seems to reflect several aspects of the conditions of women in society. Databases have to be made compatible with each other to facilitate integrated analysis for nutritional research and policy decision-making. In addition, the validity of the variables representing the conceptual framework should be improved.

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