Modelling Undernutrition

A new paper published in the Lancet in July 2012 aimed to redress the gaps in reporting child malnutrition across the world. Authors wanted to investigate the validity of a modelling approach to determining the status of child malnutrition at global, regional and national levels. Using data from a variety of sources, such as nutrition and household surveys and summary statistics from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, the authors calculated weight-for age Z scores. Using a Bayesian hierarchical mixture model to estimate Z score distributions, the authors investigated the validity of this model and its outcomes.

The overall findings were that globally in 2011, 314 million children under the age of five were mildly, moderately or severely stunted and 258 million were mildly, moderately or severely underweight. These results were also assessed with a view to exploring the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 (halving hunger and poverty by 2015). For all developing countries (141 in total), there is less than a 5% chance of meeting the MDG1 target but this chance is not evenly distributed with 61 of these countries reporting a 50-100% chance. Indeed while progress to meet MDG1 in Sub Saharan Africa would appear weak with only three countries on track, a further 13 are on track to halve poverty and 10 to halve hunger.

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