Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition

Malnutrition: Quantifying the health impact at national and local levels

This guide describes how to quantify mortality and morbidity caused by malnutrition at national and local levels. It is one in a series of guides that describe how to assess the burden of disease caused by risk factors related to the environment, occupation and nutrition. An introductory volume to the series outlines the general method; subsequent volumes address methods for specific risk factors, such as indoor smoke from solid fuels, outdoor air pollution, occupational carcinogens or occupational noise.

The guides for specific risk factors outline the evidence linking the risk factor to health, as well as the methods for assessing its impacts on a population. This is done in a practical, step-by-step approach that can be adapted to local circumstances or knowledge, and can be applied to the national level. Numerical examples, on how to assess risk factors and health burdens, are also included. The results described in the guides will be valuable for designing policies, and for raising awareness about the health gains that could be achieved by prioritizing actions for improving the environment and protecting workers’ health, and directing them to the population groups at highest risk.

The WHO web sites ( and provide additional information on assessing the environmental burden of disease and more generally on issues linked to nutrition. On the issues of quantifying disease from environmental and occupational risks, WHO can be contacted by e-mail at: (Department of Protection of the Human Environment).