|SCN News, Number 09 - Focus on Micronutritients (ACC/SCN, 1993, 70 p.)|
(1992) UNICEF Statistics and Monitoring Section, New York. 31 pages.
One of the goals of the World Summit for Children for the year 2000 is to reduce the level of underweight prevalence amongst children by one-half of the levels in 1990. This recent publication of UNICEF is one of the significant contributions towards a reliable assessment of the progress made to date. Significant increases in availability of reliable national data have improved the process of assessing the performance of countries in terms of the goals set forth in the Child Summit. Since 1985, the number of national anthropometric surveys, either as modules of national health surveys such as those done by the Demographic and Health Surveys, or by national household budget surveys done for example in the World Bank, and by national governments, have doubled to around 75 countries. At least 28 countries now have at least two data points with which to determine trends in nutrition. The acceptance of malnutrition data as indicators of social well-being has provided much of the impetus towards the increasing number of national data sets that encompass anthropometric measurements.
The standardization of anthropometric data (with respect to growth standards, cut-off points, and age), has considerably improved the interpretation of underweight data being reported by many United Nations agencies. Thus, this UNICEF publication reports information that are in accord with the data compiled by WHO and the ACC/SCN, and which were also reported in the ACC/SCN Second Report on the World Nutrition Situation (1993).
The data tables presented in the report are very clearly laid out, differentiating three alternative measurements: prevalence of underweight children; stunted children; and children with low weight for height (or wasted). This is important since many users are interested in distinguishing between long term nutrition (stunting) and short term nutrition (underweight). An important feature of this report is also the breakdown of data by three important characteristics, namely: by prevalence by age group; by gender; and by urban-rural residence.
Several countries reported at least two data points, which could potentially assess changes over time. One potential problem in such comparisons is the reliability of data on the age of children. Since indicators such as weight for age are dependent on age, the misreporting of age could confound the interpretation. This was the case for example in at least one country reviewed by the ACC/SCN.
For further information please contact: UNICEF, 3 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA.