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Journal Issue: Children and Poverty Volume 7 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1997

CHILD INDICATORS: Population-Based Growth Stunting
Eugene M. Lewit Nancy Kerrebrock

Summary

Growth stunting, defined as height for age below the fifth percentile on a reference growth curve, is traditionally used as an indicator of nutritional status in children. Growth stunting is a population-based indicator and can indicate the prevalence of malnutrition or nutrition-related disorders among an identified population of children. Among certain segments of the U.S. child population, most notably poor children, growth stunting occurs more often than expected, suggesting that inadequate nutrition may be a problem for these children. Available general population data are not recent enough to allow for an assessment of the impact of several major public programs designed to address the risk of inadequate nutrition among children. Analysis of data from these programs does show, however, a higher-than-expected-albeit-declining level of stunting among program participants. The serious consequences of growth stunting and malnutrition—particularly impaired cognitive development—suggest that careful consideration of the growth stunting indicator should remain an important part of policy discussions on public nutrition programs.