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01.12.2018 | Methodology | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Emerging Themes in Epidemiology 1/2018

Effect of correcting for gestational age at birth on population prevalence of early childhood undernutrition

Emerging Themes in Epidemiology > Ausgabe 1/2018
Nandita Perumal, Daniel E. Roth, Johnna Perdrizet, Aluísio J. D. Barros, Iná S. Santos, Alicia Matijasevich, Diego G. Bassani
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12982-018-0070-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Daniel E. Roth and Diego G. Bassani are joint senior authors



Postmenstrual and/or gestational age-corrected age (CA) is required to apply child growth standards to children born preterm (< 37 weeks gestational age). Yet, CA is rarely used in epidemiologic studies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which may bias population estimates of childhood undernutrition. To evaluate the effect of accounting for GA in the application of growth standards, we used GA-specific standards at birth (INTERGROWTH-21st newborn size standards) in conjunction with CA for preterm-born children in the application of World Health Organization Child Growth Standards postnatally (referred to as ‘CA’ strategy) versus postnatal age for all children, to estimate mean length-for-age (LAZ) and weight-for-age (WAZ) z scores at 0, 3, 12, 24, and 48-months of age in the 2004 Pelotas (Brazil) Birth Cohort.


At birth (n = 4066), mean LAZ was higher and the prevalence of stunting (LAZ < −2) was lower using CA versus postnatal age (mean ± SD): − 0.36 ± 1.19 versus − 0.67 ± 1.32; and 8.3 versus 11.6%, respectively. Odds ratio (OR) and population attributable risk (PAR) of stunting due to preterm birth were attenuated and changed inferences using CA versus postnatal age at birth [OR, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.32 (95% CI 0.95, 1.82) vs 14.7 (95% CI 11.7, 18.4); PAR 3.1 vs 42.9%]; differences in inferences persisted at 3-months. At 12, 24, and 48-months, preterm birth was associated with stunting, but ORs/PARs remained attenuated using CA compared to postnatal age. Findings were similar for weight-for-age z scores.


Population-based epidemiologic studies in LMICs in which GA is unused or unavailable may overestimate the prevalence of early childhood undernutrition and inflate the fraction of undernutrition attributable to preterm birth.
Additional file 1. Supplementary figures and tables.
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