Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1186/s13690-019-0370-0; PMCID: PMC6777036


Background: Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) is an independent anthropometric measurement used to identify malnutrition in children. While much research has been dedicated to applying fixed estimates of MUAC to identify cases of malnutrition in children under 5 years of age, far less has been done with age-specific MUAC Z-score values across the continuum of age from birth through adolescence.

Methods: The present study examined the effectiveness of a novel MUAC Z-score tape, in the hands of community health volunteers, to identify children over the age of 5 who would benefit from nutritional rehabilitation. In January of 2019, 112 community health volunteers working within Children International in Guatemala were trained to use the MUAC Z-score tape and asked to collect measurements on children or youth in their communities.

Results: Of the 818 MUAC Z-score tape measurements obtained by volunteers, 88.26% (722/818) were concordant with nutritional risk status as predicted by BMI Z-score, and 90.95% (744/818) were concordant with MUAC Z-score tape measurements made by field medical staff. MUAC Z-scores identified 87.10% (27/31) of the severely or moderately undernourished children as determined by the BMI Z-score who would be candidates for the nutrition rehabilitation program (Z-score ≤ - 2) along with an additional six children that would not have been classified as such with BMI Z-score. A qualitative survey distributed to the volunteers showed moderate rates of understanding of nutritional risk using the tape, and 62.50% reported the tape was easy to use.

Conclusions: These quantitative and qualitative findings suggest that with more in-depth training and education the MUAC Z-score tape is a viable, low-cost, low-burden alternative for community-level nutritional status assessment among the population served by Children International in Guatemala.

Supplementary information: accompanies this paper at (10.1186/s13690-019-0370-0).

Journal Title

Arch Public Health



First Page


Last Page



Acute malnutrition; Community screening of malnutrition; Mid-upper arm circumference


This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Publisher's Link:

Included in

Public Health Commons