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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;56(11):1108-18.

Anthropometric assessment of nutritional status in adolescent populations in humanitarian emergencies.

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International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch, National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



To outline the difficulties and suggest potential solutions in anthropometric assessment of adolescents during humanitarian emergencies.


Literature review.


Multiple settings in which the nutritional status of adolescents has been assessed using anthropometric measurements.


Adolescents in multiple populations.




The use of anthropometry may be more difficult in adolescents than in other age groups because anthropometric indices in normally nourished adolescents change with age and sexual development. Moreover, survey and reference populations may differ in the age at which certain pubertal landmarks are attained, requiring adjustment for differences between survey and reference populations. Adolescent populations may also differ by ethnicity in various body proportions that affect anthropometric indices. Adjustment may be required when the body proportions of adolescents in the reference population differ from those in the population assessed.


Although no definitive recommendation can be made regarding which anthropometric indices are the most appropriate for adolescents, some revisions may improve current practices. Weight-for-height could be used for prepubertal adolescents and body mass index could be used for postpubertal adolescents. Because cut-off points are age-specific, age should be collected as accurately as possible for all adolescents measured during screening or survey activities. The WHO-recommended reference population of US adolescents is inappropriate in most populations of adolescents. Adolescents should never undergo nutritional assessment in isolation; other population subgroups should be included, and other health, nutrition and food data should be collected at the same time.


The United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination/Sub-Committee on Nutrition.

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