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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009 Jun 5;58(21):591-4.

Impact of new WHO growth standards on the prevalence of acute malnutrition and operations of feeding programs - Darfur, Sudan, 2005-2007.


Acute malnutrition among children aged 6-59 months is a key indicator routinely used for describing the presence and magnitude of humanitarian emergencies. In the past, the prevalence of acute malnutrition and admissions to feeding programs has been determined using the growth reference developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), CDC, and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). In 2006, WHO released new international growth standards and recommended their use in all nutrition programs. To evaluate the impact of transitioning to the new standards, CDC analyzed anthropometric data for children aged 6-59 months from Darfur, Sudan, collected during 2005-2007. This report describes the results of that analysis, which indicated that use of the new standards would have increased the prevalence of global acute malnutrition on average by 14% and would have increased the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition on average by 100%. Admissions to feeding programs would have increased by 56% for moderately malnourished children and by 260% for severely malnourished children. For programs in Darfur, this would have resulted in approximately 23,200 more children eligible for therapeutic feeding programs. For the immediate future, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in children should be reported using both the old WHO/CDC/NCHS reference and the new WHO standards. More research is needed to better ascertain the validity of the admission criteria based on the new WHO standards in predicting malnutrition-related morbidity and mortality.

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