Invited Commentary: Improving Estimates of Severe Acute Malnutrition Requires More Data

Am J Epidemiol. 2016 Dec 15;184(12):870-872. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww131. Epub 2016 Nov 17.


In this issue of the Journal, Isanaka et al. (Am J Epidemiol 2016;184(12):861-869) set out to update an incidence correction factor used for estimating numbers of cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children aged 6-59 months. The total number of current SAM cases (prevalent cases) increases by the number of new (incident) cases and decreases as a result of recovery or death. Prevalence estimates are obtained from cross-sectional surveys. Calculation of incidence typically requires longitudinal data, which evidently are rarely collected for SAM, and so a correction factor is applied instead. Isanaka et al. pool and meta-analyze data from longitudinal and community programs in 3 West African countries (Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso), covering the period 2009-2012. Heterogeneity and the ongoing lack of data undermine the use of a single incidence correction factor for SAM estimates. Routine data collection is recommended as a way forward and aligns with recommendations of the World Health Organization. This commentary helps to outline a context for the use of such data and provide some perspective on the inadequacy of data, relative to the importance of the issue.

Keywords: child; correction factor; incidence; malnutrition; public health; severe acute malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Burkina Faso
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mali
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Niger / epidemiology
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition*