Moderate malnutrition (MM) is defined as a weight-for-age between -3 and -2 z-scores below the median of the WHO child growth standards. It can be due to a low weight-for-height (wasting) or a low height-for-age (stunting) or to a combination of both. Similarly, moderate wasting and stunting are defined as a weight-for-height and height-for-age, respectively, between -3 and -2 z-scores.
MM affects many children in poor countries. Children with moderate malnutrition have an increased risk of mortality and MM is associated with a high number of nutrition-related deaths. If some of these moderately malnourished children do not receive adequate support, they may progress towards severe acute malnutrition (severe wasting and/or oedema) or severe stunting (height-for-age less than -3 z-scores), which are both life-threatening conditions. Therefore, the management of MM should be a public health priority.
In contrast to severe malnutrition, programmes for the management of MM in children have remained virtually unchanged for the past 30 years, and it seems timely to review efforts to improve their efficacy and effectiveness.