Nutritional Risk and Malnutrition in Paediatrics: From Anthropometric Assessment to Strongkids® Screening Tool

Introduction: The prevalence of malnutrition in hospitalized children is high and is associated with negative health impact. The aim of this study was to characterize the nutritional status of hospitalized children as well as comparing nutritional risk stratification using the STRONGkids® tool and anthropometric assessment.
Material and Methods: A prospective study was conducted between March and June 2019 in a paediatric unit of a district hospital. Children with ages between one month and 17 years were included. Nutritional screening (STRONGkids®) was performed, and demographic and anthropometric variables were assessed by trained doctors and nurses (z-scores for height-for-age, weight-for-age, weight-for-height and body mass index were compared to the World Health Organization reference values) and related to the underlying condition (cause of hospitalization; hospital stay; the presence of chronic disease).
Results: A total of 209 children were evaluated, 188 of whom were included. Median age was 4.6 years and median hospital length of stay was four days. Fifty-four per cent were classified with “moderate risk” and 2% with “high risk” of developing malnutrition; 25% were effectively malnourished. Of the 105 children for which it was possible to calculate the z-scores, 6% presented acute malnutrition and nearly 14% presented chronic malnutrition. The STRONGkids® score correlated positively with nutritional status on admission, disease type on admission, and presence of previous underlying disease (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: STRONGkids® is a simple, quick nutritional screening tool for hospitalized children that is related to nutritional status on admission. Given that a considerably high percentage of children were identified as being at risk for malnutrition, it is essential to identify this early and provide nutritional intervention during hospitalization.

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