BACKGROUND: An estimated 49.5 million children under five years of age are wasted. There is a lack of robust studies on effective interventions to prevent wasting. The aim of this study was to identify and prioritise the main outstanding research questions in relation to wasting prevention to inform future research agendas.
METHOD: A research prioritisation exercise was conducted following the Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative method. Identified research gaps were compiled from multiple sources, categorised into themes and streamlined into forty research questions by an expert group. A survey was then widely circulated to assess research questions according to four criteria. An overall research priority score was calculated to rank questions.
FINDINGS: The prioritised questions have a strong focus on interventions. The importance of the early stages of life in determining later experiences of wasting was highlighted. Other important themes included the identification of at-risk infants and young children early in the progression of wasting and the roles of existing interventions and the health system in prevention.
DISCUSSION: These results indicate consensus to support more research on the pathways to wasting encompassing the in-utero environment, on the early period of infancy and on the process of wasting and its early identification. They also reinforce how little is known about impactful interventions for the prevention of wasting.
CONCLUSION: This exercise provides a five-year investment case for research that could most effectively improve on-the-ground programmes to prevent child wasting and inform supportive policy change.