National Health and Nutrition Surveys and Small Scale Surveys

Both the WHO and FAO databases may include information obtained from nationally representative health and nutrition surveys conducted by individual countries and from small-scale health and nutrition surveys. The former has the major advantage that data may be representative of the population in the country. The latter does not usually provide representative data but has the strength that the survey may be targeted to specific high-risk groups, thus providing data for those to whom policymakers may need to target interventions.

Information on nutritional status of individuals, particularly children, may also be collected at the local community level through national growth monitoring and promotion activities conducted as part of government or nongovernmental agency development activities. Many such activities stress a high level of local involvement in data collection and can be very useful to provide feedback for decisions on resource allocation that need to be made at a local level. Data can then be aggregated to higher administrative levels and can be used for regional and national resource allocation. Although this type of surveillance may not have the same level of data quality control as the larger, more heavily supervised surveys, they have the advantage of being readily available and may promote a higher level of community involvement.

Table 1 Surveys in developing countries with individual nutritional status data for children younger than 5years of age


Survey year

Age (years)

Sample sizea

Data included




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