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OBJECTIVE: To compare mothers' perceptions of their own infants' nutritional status with anthropometric indicators of undernutrition. DESIGN: A qualitative study and cross-sectional quantitative survey. The qualitative study involved developing tools to assess mother's perception. Two methods of verbal description and a pictorial scale were developed. The quantitative survey involved measuring maternal perception and comparing it with the anthropometric measures of weight-for-age Z-score (WAZ) and mid-upper arm circumference-for-age Z-score (MUACZ). SETTING: A rural community setting in Kenya. SUBJECTS: Seventy-four infants aged between 4 and 6 months, and their mothers, living in rural Kenya were enrolled. RESULTS: Using verbal description, the positive and negative likelihood ratios were 3.57 (95 % CI 1.44, 9.98) and 0.69 (95 % CI 0.50, 0.96) respectively for MUACZ<-2; and 4.60 (95 % CI 1.60, 13.3) and 0.67 (95 % CI 0.49, 0.92) respectively for WAZ<-2. Using the pictorial scale, the positive and negative likelihood ratios were 8.30 (95 % CI 1.91, 36.3) and 0.69 (95 % CI 0.52, 0.93) respectively for MUACZ<-2; and 4.31 (95 % CI 1.22, 15.0) and 0.78 (95 % CI 0.61, 1.00) respectively for WAZ<-2. CONCLUSIONS: In a rural community, mothers better identify undernutrition in their infants using a pictorial scale than verbal description. However, neither can replace formal anthropometric assessment. Objective anthropometric tools should be validated for identification of severe acute malnutrition among infants aged less than 6 months.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health Nutr

Publication Date





869 - 876


Infants, Adult, Audiovisual Aids, Child Development, Communication Barriers, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Humans, Infant, Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Kenya, Male, Mothers, Nutrition Assessment, Nutrition Surveys, Patient Education as Topic, Pilot Projects, Risk, Rural Health, Severe Acute Malnutrition, Verbal Learning, Young Adult