The development of a MUAC-for-height reference, including a comparison to other nutritional status screening indicators

Z Mei, L M Grummer-Strawn, M de Onis, R Yip
Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1997, 75 (4): 333-41
Mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) based on a single cut-off value for all the children less than 5 years of age has been used for many years as an alternative nutritional status index for children during famines or refugee crises, and as an additional screening tool in nonemergencies. However, it has recently been questioned whether MUAC is age- and sex-independent. After reviewing the scientific evidence underlying the use and interpretation of MUAC, a WHO Expert Committee recommended a new MUAC-for-age reference for under-5-year-olds. In some settings, however, it is difficult to assess a child's age and in such circumstances MUAC-for-height may be a good alternative. The height-based QUAC stick is a simple means of adjusting MUAC cut-offs according to height, and the MUAC-for-height reference and the construction and use of the QUAC stick are described in this article. Described also is the use of the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve method to evaluate the performance of MUAC, MUAC-for-age, and MUAC-for-height in screening malnourished children.

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