Health status statistics : Morbidity
Children under five years of age
° stunted for age (percentage)
° underweight for age (percentage)
Rationale for use
Both indicators measure growth in young children. Child growth is internationally recognized as an important public health indicator for monitoring nutritional status and health in populations. In addition, children who suffer from growth retardation as a result of poor diets and/or recurrent infections tend to have greater risks of illness and death.
Percentage of children stunted is the percentage of children under five years who have a height-for-age below minus two standard deviations of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)/WHO reference median.
Percentage of children underweight is the percentage of children under five years who have a weight-for-age below minus two standard deviations of the NCHS/ WHO reference median.
Severely underweight or stunting is defined as below minus three standard deviations from median weight-for-age or height-for-age of NCHS/WHO reference population.
National household surveys, sub-national nutritional surveys and national nutrition surveillance systems.
Methods of estimation
Empirical values are used. Several countries have limited data for recent years and current estimations are made using models that make projections based on past trends.
By sex, age, and location (urban/rural, major regions/provinces)
de Onis M, Blössner M. The World Health Organization Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition: methodology and applications. International Journal of Epidemiology 2003; 32:518-26.
Anthropometric values are compared across individuals or populations in relation to a set of reference values. The choice of the reference population has a significant impact on the proportion of children identified as being under- nourished and/or over-nourished. Since the late 1970s, WHO has recommended the NCHS/WHO international reference population, for the comparison of child growth data. An improved international growth reference for young children is expected to be available by the end of 2005.