Anthropometric Status: An Incomplete Indicator of Undernutrition

Peter Svedberg

in Poverty and Undernutrition

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780198292685
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596957 | DOI:

Series: WIDER Studies in Development Economics

 Anthropometric Status: An Incomplete Indicator of Undernutrition

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This chapter addresses conceptual issues related to the use of anthropometric measures as indicators of nutritional status. One problem is that there is no consensus on whether children of different ethnic origin have the same genetic potential for growth in stature (as the uniform norms imply). It is also acknowledged that anthropometric measurements are silent on how much energy (calories) a person expends on physical activity; a person can in extreme cases have an adequate body weight, but be undernourished in the sense that he or she is too inactive to stay healthy. Further, a new more disaggregated classification of anthropometric failure is suggested, with the intention to improve targeting efficiency, i.e. to raise the predictability power of anthropometrics for subsequent (avoidable) morbidity and mortality. Finally, a Composite Index of Anthropometric Failure (CIAF) is constructed that captures all individuals in a population with at least one anthropometric shortcoming.

Keywords: anthropometric measure; Composite Index of Anthropometric Failure; ethnic origin; genetic potential; morbidity; mortality; nutritional status; physical activity

Chapter.  4682 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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