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Background: Undernutrition remains highly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounting for majority of the cases. Apart from the health and human capacity impacts on children affected by malnutrition, there are significant economic impacts to households and service providers. The aim of this study was to determine the current state of knowledge on costs and cost-effectiveness of child undernutrition treatment to households, health providers, organizations and governments in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Methods:  We conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed studies in LMICs up to September 2019. We searched online databases including PubMed-Medline, Embase, Popline, Econlit and Web of Science. We identified additional articles through bibliographic citation searches. Only articles including costs of child undernutrition treatment were included. Results: We identified a total of 6436 articles, and only 50 met the eligibility criteria. Most included studies adopted institutional/program (45%) and health provider (38%) perspectives. The studies varied in the interventions studied and costing methods used with treatment costs reported ranging between US$0.44 and US$1344 per child. The main cost drivers were personnel, therapeutic food and productivity loss. We also assessed the cost effectiveness of community-based management of malnutrition programs (CMAM). Cost per disability adjusted life year (DALY) averted for a CMAM program integrated into existing health services in Malawi was $42. Overall, cost per DALY averted for CMAM ranged between US$26 and US$53, which was much lower than facility-based management (US$1344). Conclusion: There is a need to assess the burden of direct and indirect costs of child undernutrition to households and communities in order to plan, identify cost-effective solutions and address issues of cost that may limit delivery, uptake and effectiveness. Standardized methods and reporting in economic evaluations would facilitate interpretation and provide a means for comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





62 - 62