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Burden and determinants of wasting in Southeast Asia and the overlap with stunting

Research snapshot1

The largest proportion of wasted children globally is found in Southeast Asia, yet this is not fully recognised as a public health problem and the coverage of treatment services in the region remains low. This is partly due to the belief that wasting in Asian children has different determinants and clinical features than those observed in African children. This study aimed to understand wasting epidemiology in Southeast Asia and determine the burden of wasting, its predictors and the level of wasting and stunting concurrence.

The study conducted a secondary data analysis of the latest Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) or National Food and Nutrition Survey (NFNS) from Cambodia, Loa PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. Surveys were conducted between 2011 and 2017. The pooled weighted prevalence for wasting, severe wasting and concurrent wasting and stunting among children aged 0-59 months of age in the six countries was 8.9%, 2.9% and 1.6% respectively. In absolute numbers this translates to 1,088,747 children with wasting and 272, 563 children with concurrent wasting and stunting in the six countries. Wasting prevalence was 50% higher in the 0-23 months age group. Characteristics associated with wasting included source of drinking water, wealth index and child’s age, size at birth and history of illness. Maternal body mass index (BMI) was also highly associated with wasting; however, there was no association between maternal age and maternal height and risk of child wasting. A surprising finding was the higher risk of wasting among children from urban households compared to those from rural households. Further investigation is needed to understand this finding. The authors conclude that wasting is a serious public health problem in Southeast Asia that needs to be urgently addressed through both preventative and curative approaches.

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1 Mutunga M, Frison S, Rava M, Bahwere P. The Forgotten Agenda of Wasting in Southeast Asia: Burden, Determinants and Overlap with Stunting: A Review of Nationally Representative Cross-Sectional Demographic and Health Surveys in Six Countries. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):559. Published 2020 Feb 20. doi:10.3390/nu12020559

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Burden and determinants of wasting in Southeast Asia and the overlap with stunting. , January 0001. www.ennonline.net/fex/63/wastingstuntingseasia

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