Diagnosis of Malnutrition in India

Action Against Hunger’s programs focus on the most vulnerable, including young children, pregnant women and young mothers. The diagnosis of malnutrition is usually done in one of three ways:

Weighing and measuring the body

The weight of a child is compared with the normal weight for that height. Normal weight indicators come from studies in which thousands of healthy children have been weighed. If the weight is below the international standard values, the child is classified as malnourished.

Measuring the average upper arm circumference.

Another method for determining the nutritional status of a child is to measure the middle upper arm circumference, which is particularly suitable for children between six months and five years of age. A reading below 12.5 cm means that the child is suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. If the MUAC measurement (mid-upper arm circumference) is, less than 11.5 cm, this is a diagnosis of severe acute malnutrition, and the child’s life is in danger.

Looking for signs of oedema.

A third way to diagnose acute malnutrition is to look for oedema. Children with oedema often look bloated, and there is swelling in the legs, feet or face. If the ankle or foot of the child is pressed lightly with the thumb, small indentations remain. The presence of oedema in the feet and lower legs is a sign of severe acute malnutrition.

Children with moderate malnutrition are referred to Anganwadi Centres (a government initiative to provide early childhood education, stimulating development and growth in young children) and those with severe acute malnutrition are referred to the government run in-patient treatment centers, known as Malnutrition Treatment Centres (MTC) or Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC).

Find out more about how malnutrition is treated here.