OBJECTIVE: To compare the prognostic value of mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC), weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) and weight-for-age z-score (WAZ) for predicting death over periods of one, three and six months follow-up in children.
DESIGN: Pooled analysis of 12 prospective studies examining survival after anthropometric assessment. Sensitivity and false-positive ratios to predict death within one, three and six months were compared for three individual anthropometric indices and their combinations.
SETTING: Community-based, prospective studies from 12 countries in Africa and Asia.
PARTICIPANTS: Children aged 6-59 months living in the study areas.
RESULTS: For all anthropometric indices, the receiver operating characteristic curves were higher for shorter than for longer durations of follow-up. Sensitivity was higher for death with one month follow-up compared to six months by 49% (95% CI: 30-69%) for MUAC
CONCLUSIONS: Frequent anthropometric measurements significantly improve the identification of malnourished children with a high risk of death without markedly increasing false-positives. Combining two indices increases sensitivity but also increases false-positives among children meeting case definitions.