Childhood growth during recovery from acute illness in Africa and South Asia: a secondary analysis of the childhood acute illness and nutrition (CHAIN) prospective cohort

Document Type



Community Health Sciences; Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Growth faltering is well-recognized during acute childhood illness and growth acceleration during convalescence, with or without nutritional therapy, may occur. However, there are limited recent data on growth after hospitalization in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods: We evaluated growth following hospitalization among children aged 2-23 months in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Between November 2016 and January 2019, children were recruited at hospital admission and classified as: not-wasted (NW), moderately-wasted (MW), severely-wasted (SW), or having nutritional oedema (NO). We describe earlier (discharge to 45-days) and later (45- to 180-days) changes in length-for-age [LAZ], weight-for-age [WAZ], mid-upper arm circumference [MUACZ], weight-for-length [WLZ] z-scores, and clinical, nutritional, and socioeconomic correlates.
Findings: We included 2472 children who survived to 180-days post-discharge: NW, 960 (39%); MW, 572 (23%); SW, 682 (28%); and NO, 258 (10%). During 180-days, LAZ decreased in NW (-0.27 [-0.36, -0.19]) and MW (-0.23 [-0.34, -0.11]). However, all groups increased WAZ (NW, 0.21 [95% CI: 0.11, 0.32]; MW, 0.57 [0.44, 0.71]; SW, 1.0 [0.88, 1.1] and NO, 1.3 [1.1, 1.5]) with greatest gains in the first 45-days. Of children underweight
Interpretation: Underweight and poor linear growth mostly persisted after an acute illness. Beyond short-term nutritional supplementation, improving linear growth post-discharge may require broader individual and family support.


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