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When you think of malnourishment and failure to thrive, your first thought is not of children in developing countries such as the United States. When it is seen in the United States, it is usually a result of a medical condition that prevents the body from utilizing the nutrients being provided. The incidence of failure to thrive relating to intentional child neglect is not well studied, but fewer than 1% of children in the United States have chronic malnutrition. (Sirotnak, 2013)

The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as “the cellular imbalance between supply of nutrients and energy and the body’s demand for them to ensure growth, maintenance, and specific functions” (Shashidhar, 2013). Failure to Thrive is a more quantitative definition where “the diagnosis is based on growth parameters that (1) fall over 2 or more percentiles, (2) are persistently below the third or fifth percentiles, or (3) are less than the 80th percentile of median weight for height measurement. Growth failure is now generally accepted to be overly simplistic and obsolete.” That last sentence indicates that the previously used term “Growth Failure” is not accepted as a diagnosis in any case, and that children do not simply stop growing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has another criteria of “significantly prolonged cessation of appropriate weight gain compared with recognized norms for age and gender after having achieved a stable pattern” (Block, Krebs, Committee on Child Abuse & Neglect, & Committee on Nutrition, 2005)

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One thought on “Differentiating Failure to Thrive From Malnourishment”

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