Of the 560 million preschool children living in developing countries today, 26% are underweight (defined as a weight-for-age z score ≤ −2.0).1 In the past few years, several analyses have documented that more than 50% of all childhood deaths are attributable to this underweight,2,3 that most of these deaths occur in children with mild to moderate (as opposed to severe) underweight,2 that the risks of death due to all 4 major causes of child mortality (pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and malaria) are substantially and significantly higher for underweight children,4 and that underweight is associated with poor cognition,5 fewer years of schooling,5,6 lower adult income,5 and for girls, a higher risk that their infants will also be malnourished, perpetuating the problem generation after generation.7
Mean weight-for-age z scores of children between birth and 59 months by global region. Reproduced with permission from the American Academy of Pediatrics.8 NCHS indicates National Center for Health Statistics.
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