Sensitive Index to Assess Risk of Morbidity in Undernutrition

Undernutrition in children continues to be a major public health issue in India. Undernutrition is associated with impaired immune function, which results in increased susceptibility to infection possibly leading to death. Most of the studies exploring the association between undernutrition and infection have used weight for age as the index of assessment. The Nutrition Foundation of India (NFI) has put forward a new hypotheses: in Indian children, among whom stunting is common, body mass index (BMI) for age is a more sensitive index than stunting and underweight for assessing risk of infection.

This grant will allow the NFI to test this hypothesis in a secondary analysis of data from the National Family Health Survey-3. Using a sample of 46 000 preschool children from the survey, researchers will determine the relative risk of morbidity due to infections and undernutrition (stunting, underweight and low BMI for age) and whether BMI for age is the most sensitive index for assessing risk of morbidity due to infections in population groups where stunting in childhood is common.

If low BMI for age is an accurate measure of current energy deficit and susceptibility to infection, then early detection and correction of this deficit would allow the child to continue his or her growth trajectory for weight and height while reducing susceptibility to infection. The index could also be used to diagnose overnutrition, with which another set of (non-communicable) diseases are associated. The results of the project will be presented to policymakers, program managers and nutrition scientists at a symposium to be organized by the NFI in November 2008, with a view to their application in national policies and programs.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

End Date

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


12 months

IDRC Officer

Mhatre, Sharmila

Total funding

CA$ 41,300


India, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Dr Prema Ramachandran


Nutrition Foundation of India

Institution Country


Institution Website