Assessing nutritional status

SOURCE: Community nutrition for developing countries
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
TITLE AUTHOR(S): A.N.Brako, Z.Mchiza, W.Parker
SOURCE EDITOR(S): N.J.Temple, N.Steyn
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 8930
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/1693

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People need to maintain optimal nutritional status in order to support their body's growth and development, to promote their health, and prevent disease. Because of the important relationship between nutrition and health, health professionals need to conduct nutritional assessments to determine an individual's nutritional status. In the past, intervention efforts have been directed at the important problem of malnutrition owing to inadequate food intake; the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 800 million people living in low-income countries do not have enough to eat, so this form of malnutrition continues to be a major health concern. Nutritional measurements are especially critical for at-risk individuals during periods of rapid growth and development, when nutritional requirements are high and inadequate nutrition can have irreversible health consequences. Additionally, in view of the public health threat posed by overweight and obesity in developed as well as developing countries, it is vital for health-care providers to also use available assessment tools to monitor for both undernutrition and overnutrition in patients. This chapter addresses the methods used to assess nutritional status in individuals and in populations overall. These methods fall into four main categories: dietary assessment, anthropometric measurements, clinical evaluations, and laboratory tests (Jensen et al., 2012). It is important to note that each method does not, by itself, provide a complete picture of a person's nutritional profile, so it is necessary to use them in combination. Once this has been done, appropriate interventions can be planned and implemented or referrals for further examinations made.