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Prevention of acute malnutrition: Distribution of special nutritious foods and cash, and addressing underlying causes-what to recommend when, where, for whom, and how

  • 2015/04/02
Type of publication
  • Articles
Authors
  • Lipsitch M; Eyal N; Halloran ME; Hernán MA; Longini IM; Perencevich EN; Grais RF
Themes
  • Nutrition

Acute malnutrition is associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk. When episodes are prolonged or frequent, acute malnutrition is also associated with poor growth and development, which contributes to stunting. Nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive strategies to prevent undernutrition during the first 1,000 days from conception to 24 months of age can reduce the risks of wasting, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies. Under circumstances that exacerbate the underlying causes of undernutrition and increase the incidence of wasting, such as food insecurity related to lean seasons or emergencies, or increased incidence of illness, such as diarrhea or measles, additional efforts are required to prevent and treat wasting. Special nutritious foods directly meet the increased nutrient requirements of children at risk for wasting; assistance to vulnerable households, in the form of cash or food, enables households to better meet the food, health, and other needs of household members and may increase resilience; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and health interventions help prevent and address illness and hence reduce wasting risk. The contributions of specific interventions to reducing the incidence of wasting are difficult to assess under emergency conditions, due to ethical constraints and to the fact that multiple strategies are implemented at the same time. However, pragmatic studies under reallife circumstances, using different designs, e.g., including a group receiving "best possible" treatment, can provide evidence about what works, to what extent, at what cost, and under which circumstances. Programs should address the most important causes in given contexts, be feasible to implement at scale, and assess implementation, coverage, and outcomes.