Justification: Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is an important preventable and treatable cause of morbidity and mortality in children below five years of age in India. The concerned stakeholders are not in agreement about the role of product based medical nutrition therapy in the management of this condition.
Process: In November 2009, a National Consensus Workshop was organized by the Department of Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi in collaboration with the Department of Pediatrics and Clinical Epidemiology, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, New Delhi, and the Sub-specialty Chapter on Nutrition, Indian Academy of Pediatrics. Presentations by eminent national and international scientists, the ensuing discussions, and opinions expressed by the participants provided the basic framework for drafting the consensus statement. The draft of the consensus statement was circulated to all the participants; it underwent two revisions after consideration of their comments.
Objectives: (i) Critically appraise the current global evidence on the utility of Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) for the management of SAM in under five children; (ii) Formulate a consensus amongst stakeholders regarding the need to introduce product based MNT for the management of SAM in under five children in India; (iii) Identify research priorities for MNT for the management of SAM in under five children in India; and (iv)Ascertain potential challenges for introducing product based MNT in India, if consensus opinion identifies such a need.
Recommendations: Guidelines related to the role of MNT in management of children suffering from SAM are presented. Global and regional data document the effectiveness of MNT using ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) and locally formulated products. Adequate caution should be exercised to ensure that MNT for SAM does not interfere with measures for the holistic prevention of childhood undernutrition. Indian manufacture of RUTF is feasible, and can be scaled up. Product-based nutrition therapy including RUTF can be introduced on a pilot basis when a delivery design and plan of action is developed and is in place as a part of the larger system to deal with childhood undernutrition. RUTF should be used only as therapeutic and not supplementary feeding, above six months of age, and for a limited time period (4-8 weeks) until the child recovers from SAM, which should be defined in explicit treatment protocols. An urgent research issue is comparison of RUTF with home-based and locally-formulated products.