• Request support for nutrition coordination, information management and nutrition in emergencies

  • التماس الدعم لتنسيق التغذية وإدارة المعلومات والتغذية في حالات الطوارئ

  • Buscar apoyo para la coordinación de la nutrición, la gestión de la información y la nutrición en situaciones de emergencia

  • Demander un appui pour la coordination de la nutrition, la gestion de l'information et la nutrition dans les situations d'urgence

  • Solicite apoio para coordenação em nutrição, gestão de informação e nutrição em emergências

Publication: 24.08.2022

MUAC vs. WFH - A brief overview of the debate

Have you wondered about the difference in using Weight-for-height Z-score (WHZ) and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) to identify children needing nutrition treatment?

A frequent question asked of the Alliance is what appropriate anthropometric measures should be used in different contexts and how practitioners can understand the global debates and diverse evidence base relating to anthropometric criteria for identifying wasted children requiring nutrition treatment.

Our latest learning this brief describes some of the key elements and viewpoints within the debate between different anthropometric measurement approaches in order to equip practitioners with information to make decisions for their specific contexts. The brief does not intend to wade into the debate, nor comprehensively cover all of its complexities, but aims to bring clarity to what some of the key elements are within the debate around anthropometric measurements.  

The key ideas and questions explored include:

  • The fact that MUAC and WHZ measurements tend to identify different children
  • A debate around the optimal anthropometric measure(s) for identifying the severest cases (i.e., those with the highest mortality risk) to prioritise for the most urgent treatment
  • Concern that the selection of one anthropometric measure over the other may have implications for achieving greater coverage
  • Concerns about admitting children for therapeutic treatment who should not be receiving it (based on admissions using different anthropometric criteria), or vice versa – not admitting children for therapeutic treatment who should be receiving treatment

You can read the whole brief here.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Management of Wasting you can find out more information here or submit any questions or technical queries you may have through our request page


Photo credit © UNICEF/UN0591096/Taxta