RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— Two new studies, conducted by RTI International and Washington University in St. Louis researchers, show that nearly half of all children who are successfully treated for moderate malnutrition fail to sustain their recovery during the following year. These findings were recently published in The Journal of Nutrition and British Journal of Nutrition to fill the dearth of information about how well children fare after initial recovery from moderate malnutrition in developing countries.
In the first study, “Household-level factors associated with relapse following discharge from treatment to moderate acute malnutrition,” researchers followed up with over 300 malnourished children for one year after treatment. The results suggest that improved water, hygiene and sanitation practices are essential for children to sustain recovery from malnutrition. Children in households that had fitted lids on water storage containers, caregivers with clean hands, and use of improved sanitation facilities were more likely to maintain long term health.
“These findings highlight the importance of taking a multi-pronged approach to helping malnourished children in developing countries sustain their recovery,” said Heather Stobaugh, international nutrition researcher at RTI and lead author of the study. “Nutritional formulas are essential, but high-quality food alone will not allow for long-term health.”
Improved water, sanitation and hygiene conditions, coupled with highly nutritious feeding programs, may show promise to prevent relapse and other poor health outcomes after treatment for malnutrition.
In the second study, “Children with poor linear growth are at risk for repeated relapse to wasting after recovery from moderate acute malnutrition,” data from a longitudinal study of 1,487 children was analyzed. The results showed that children, recovering from malnutrition, whose linear growth rate (as defined by their height for age ratio) was declining were more likely to experience a relapse.
“This study shows that while designing supplementary feeding programs, we need to consider not only the weight of malnourished children, but also track the stature of these children,” Stobaugh said.
Both these studies contribute to the ongoing efforts to establish effective treatments that expedite and sustain the recovery process during the years that are crucial for childhood development.