Development of a screening tool to predict malnutrition among children under two years old in Zambia

Type Journal Article - Global Health Action
Title Development of a screening tool to predict malnutrition among children under two years old in Zambia
Volume 10
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Background: Maternal and child undernutrition is an important issue, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Children at high risk of malnutrition should be prioritized to receive necessary interventions to minimize such risk. Several risk factors have been proposed; however, until now, there has been no appropriate evaluation method to identify these children. In sub-Saharan Africa, children commonly receive regular check-ups from community health workers. A simple and easy nutrition assessment method is therefore needed for use by semi-professional health workers.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to develop and test a practical screening tool for community use in predicting growth stunting in children under two years in rural Zambia.

Methods: Field research was conducted from July to August 2014 in Southern Province, Zambia. Two hundred and sixty-four mother-child pairs participated in the study. Anthropometric measurements were performed on all children and mothers, and all mothers were interviewed. Risk factors for the screening test were estimated by using least absolute shrinkage and selection operator analysis. After re-evaluating all participants using the new screening tool, a receiver operating characteristic curve was drawn to set the cut-off value. Sensitivity and specificity were also calculated.

Results: The screening tool included age, weight-for-age Z-score status, birth weight, feeding status, history of sibling death, multiple birth, and maternal education level. The total score ranged from 0 to 22, and the cut-off value was eight. Sensitivity and specificity were 0.963 and 0.697 respectively.

Conclusions: A screening tool was developed to predict children at high risk of malnutrition living in Zambia. Further longitudinal studies are needed to confirm the test’s validity in detecting future stunting and to investigate the effectiveness of malnutrition treatment.

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