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Malnutrition in children

Stunting, wasting, overweight and underweight are used to measure nutritional imbalance; such imbalance results in either undernutrition (assessed from stunting, wasting and underweight) or overweight. Child growth is internationally recognized as an important indicator of nutritional status and health in populations.

The percentage of children with a low height-for-age (stunting) reflects the cumulative effects of undernutrition and infections since birth, and even before birth. This measure can therefore be interpreted as an indication of poor environmental conditions or long-term restriction of a child's growth potential. The percentage of children who have low weight-for-age (underweight) can reflect wasting (i.e. low weight-for-height), indicating acute weight loss or stunting, or both. Thus, underweight is a composite indicator that may be difficult to interpret.

Stunting, wasting and overweight in children aged under 5 years are included as primary outcome indicators in the core set of indicators for the Global Nutrition Monitoring Frameworkto monitor progress towards reaching Global Nutrition Targets 1, 4 and 6. These three indicators are also included in WHO's Global reference list of 100 core health indicators.