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Training Module: Children with special health care needs

Body mass index-for-age
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Read more about skinfold measures

Skinfold measures can provide information about an individual's body composition. One of the most commonly used skinfold measurements is triceps skinfold. Along with mid-upper arm circumference, this measurement can used to estimate arm fat and arm muscle area. Subscapular skinfold measurements are also useful for estimating fat stores.

The measurements should be taken with an accurate, calibrated skinfold caliper and a flexible, nonstretchable tape measure. Accurate measurement requires training and regular practice and validation.

Reference data exist for children over 1 year of age, but it should be noted that the children in the data set did not have special health care needs. Differences in bone size and fat and muscle distribution make the use of the reference data inappropriate for many children. Skinfold measurements are best used for monitoring changes over time.


Subscapular skinfold measurement Triceps skinfold measurement


References for skinfold measurement and interpretation

Lohman TG, Roche AF, Martorell R. Anthropometric Standardization Reference Manual. Illinois: Human Kinetics; 1988.

Nardella M, et al. Nutrition Interventions for Children with Special Health Care Needs. Washington State Department of Health. 2001.

Reference data
Frisancho AR. New norms of upper limb fat and muscle areas for assessment of nutritional status. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981; 34:2540-2545.

Gurney JM, Jelliffe DB. Arm anthropometry in nutritional assessment: a nomogram for rapid calculation of muscle circumference and cross-sectional muscle and fat areas. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973; 26:912-915.

Tanner JM, Whitehouse RH. Revised standards for triceps and subscapular skinfolds in British children. Arch Dis Child 1975; 50:142-145.

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