Vital signs are measurements of basic bodily functions, such as temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, which provide critical information about a person’s current health status. While the idea of incorporating nutrition screening as a vital sign was first proposed 20 years ago, assessment approaches and tools remain underutilized in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The “Nutrition as a Health Vital Sign” concept involves further assessing the effectiveness of nutrition screening and indices as a vital sign across the maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) continuum of care to identify risk factors for morbidity and mortality, and respond with preventive and curative actions. The concept note presents an initial desk review of available literature, key takeaways from an expert and partner consultation workshop, potential gaps for research, and next steps to move forward with the use of nutrition screening tools as a health vital sign in LMICs. The meeting report from this consultation workshop lays out challenges and opportunities to using various nutrition assessments and screening measures in these settings.
- Nutrition is not currently thought of as a health vital sign, but it needs to be framed as such in order to identify risk factors for morbidity and mortality across the maternal, newborn, and child health continuum of care and respond with preventive and curative actions.
- There is a clear need to better understand existing nutrition screening tools for children and pregnant women during antenatal care in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) settings.
- Screening tools need to be easy to use, understood, and accepted by health care providers in LMIC settings and need to be linked to specific actions that health workers can take if a client’s nutrition vital sign measurement is below or above a standard cutoff.