The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently published new guidelines for assessing and managing children at primary health-care facilities to prevent overweight and obesity in the context of double burden of malnutrition. This is part of the updates for the integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI). Please see the overview of the guidelines below and go to our Research and Publications tab to download the full document.

As part of its response to the global epidemic of obesity, WHO has issued guidelines to support primary healthcare workers identify and manage children who are overweight or obese. Specifically, all infants and children aged less than 5 years presenting to primary health-care facilities should have both weight and height measured in order to determine their weight-for-height and their nutritional status according to WHO child growth standards. Comparing a child’s weight with norms for its length/height is an effective way to assess for both wasting and overweight.

Where infants and children are identified as overweight, WHO recommends providing counselling to parents and caregivers on nutrition and physical activity including promotion and support for exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months and continued breastfeeding until 24 months or beyond. If children are obese, they should be further assessed and an appropriate management plan should be developed. This can be done by a health worker at primary health-care level, if adequately trained, or at a referral clinic or local hospital.

Additionally, moderate wasting and stunting are potential risk factors for children becoming overweight or obese. Within these populations, and until there is a more definitive evidence base, to avoid increasing the risk of overweight and obesity WHO recommends not to provide formulated supplementary foods on a routine basis to children who are moderately wasted or stunted.

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