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The Wasting-Stunting Technical Interest Group: Summarising the work to date

This is a summary of a Field Exchange field article that was included in issue 67. The original article was authored by Natalie Sessions and Tanya Khara.

Natalie Sessions is a Senior Nutritionist at ENN

Tanya Khara is a Technical Director at ENN

Key messages:

  • This article outlines the work of the Wasting-Stunting Technical Interest Group (WaSt-TIG) since its inception in 2014.
  • Important research has been undertaken by the project, focusing on the complex relationship between wasting and stunting, as well as the implications of their continued separation in policy, programmes and research.
  • Future priorities for the WaSt-TIG include further articulation of the programme and policy implications.

Background

Over recent decades, child wasting and stunting have been conceptualised and addressed separately resulting in different policies, programmes, research and financing mechanisms. During emergencies, programmes have focused on the short-term treatment of wasted children and the prevention of deaths. In development programmes, the focus has been on the longer-term prevention of stunting and micronutrient deficits. This is despite the fact that wasting and stunting co-occur in humanitarian and development contexts.

In 2014, ENN began exploring the relationship between wasting and stunting to assess whether the separation was justified. The Wasting-Stunting Technical Interest Group (WaSt-TIG) was set up, including 42 expert researchers, programmers and donors in the fields of child growth, nutrition and epidemiology. Since 2014, the work of the WaSt TIG has evolved from reviewing existing evidence and defining research gaps to mining existing data, communicating learnings and exploring the implications for policy and practice. 

Reviewing existing evidence and defining research gaps  

Mining existing data

Delving deeper

Communicating learnings

Implications for policy and practice

Conclusion

The WaSt-TIG has brought researchers together with policy developers and nutrition programme staff to discuss how research can be used to improve our understanding of undernutrition, its consequences for children’s growth and how to prevent it. While much has been achieved, more work is needed to further articulate the programme and policy implications. Some exciting next steps include a focus on dissemination and advocacy, translating evidence into practice, expanding to other settings at country and regional levels and further exploring the evidence.  

References

Angood C, Khara T, Dolan C, Berkley J, WaSt Technical Interest Group (2016) Research Priorities on the Relationship between Wasting and Stunting. PLoS ONE 11, 5.

Garenne M, Myatt M, Khara T, Dolan C, Briend A (2019) Concurrent wasting and stunting among under-five children in Niakhar, Senegal. Maternal and Child Nutrition, 2019, 15, 2, e12736.

Myatt M, Khara T, Schoenbuchner S, Pietzsch S, Dolan C, Lelijveld N et al (2018) Children who are both wasted and stunted are also underweight and have a high risk of death: a descriptive epidemiology of multiple anthropometric deficits using data from 51 countries. Archives of Public Health, 76, 28.

Schoenbuchner S, Dolan C, Mwangome M, Hall A, Richard S, Wells J et al (2019) The relationship between wasting and stunting: a retrospective cohort analysis of longitudinal data in Gambian children from 1976 to 2016. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 110, 498–507.

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Natalie Sessions and Tanya Khara (). The Wasting-Stunting Technical Interest Group: Summarising the work to date. FEX 67 Digest, May 2022. www.ennonline.net/fexdigest/67/wasttigsummary

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