Health Issues Affecting an Underweight Child


Being underweight affects many children and adults around the globe and it is usually a sign of another problem and a risk factor for various health conditions. Any child who is below the fifth percentile for weight depending on the height is considered underweight. This discussion will involve an underweight girl aged 10 years old whose mother is also weighing below recommended weight. The necessary information required to assess the case will be gathered and beneficial questions asked to understand sensitivity issues and the child’s development (Efevbera, 2018). Moreover, the discussion will explain two strategies to support the family to attain a healthy weight and establish measures to improve the child’s health.

Health Issues

Being underweight is a health concern since the child may be lacking important nutrients because of issues such as mal-absorption and malnutrition. The problem can compromise brain development resulting in delayed developmental milestones and subsequent learning challenges. Being underweight is associated with many risks including osteoporosis arising due to limited intake of calcium and vitamin D (Ali et al., 2017). The child may have decreased immune function, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and anemia. Moreover, the child may have development and growth issues and a greater risk for complications in case of surgery.

The child’s parent is also underweight implying that the family could be having a poor socioeconomic status affecting their ability to afford food and health care services. They could be suffering from a certain disease that is affecting their digestive and endocrine system. On the other hand, the child may be having poor mental health arising from a traumatic event or an eating disorder. Bullying in school where the victim is influenced to develop a negative perception of her shape and appearance could have affected the girl.

Additional Information Needed

The family’s nutritional factors are necessary to facilitate the understanding of underlying health issues and concerns. It is important to know what the family eats, the pattern and quantity of meals, the quality of the diets, and their ability to maintain healthy eating habits (Roche et al., 2017). Determining whether the family understands the need of maintaining recommended eating practices can help know the best ways to assist the child. The provider should measure the body mass index (BMI) of the child and parent to understand the extent of the problem (Ali et al., 2017). This can be achieved by taking the height and weight measures and computing the BMI. The measure estimates the body fat depending on the weight and height where any person below 18.5 units is considered underweight.

Risks and Gathering Sensitive Information

An underweight person is usually exposed to the risk of not receiving sufficient nutrients increasing the chances of developing many health issues. Children can experience teeth, hair, or skin problems marked with symptoms such as poor dental health, thinning, and dry skin (Ali et al., 2017). Moreover, the child might be getting sick frequently due to a lack of sufficient energy necessary to support a healthy body. Since being underweight is associated with inadequate food, the child might have limited ability to fight off infections (Efevbera et al., 2018). This means that illness can take a prolonged period before they disappear worsening the child’s condition. Increased chances of developing anemia is another risk factor affecting underweight children because of low blood counts.

Gaining a full understanding of the health issues means that the provider needs to apply an effective method of gathering the information sensitively. This is possible through the creation of a favorable environment that would influence trust and confidence (Roche et al., 2017). The child should be motivated to share information regarding her perception of the low weight and whether she could be interested in adding weight. It would be appropriate to make the child feel secure and encouraged to provide as much information as possible to enhance the treatment process.

Specific Questions about the Child

Questions need to be asked to gain more information regarding the child and parent’s potential sensitivities. They will facilitate understanding of the child’s health history and reveal beneficial information to support the provision of the most appropriate health care assistance

  1. What is your typical food in 24 hours? The question is necessary to evaluate the eating habits of the family, availability of quality and healthy food, and knowledge of the appropriate lifestyle.
  2. How do you feel about your weight? The question would help provide information regarding the perception towards the low weight and explain whether the child is avoiding food to maintain her body size. This can help the provider to understand the most appropriate care to give to the child to improve her perception and help her learn the dangers and risks of low weight.
  3. Are the other family members slim like you? The answer provided for this question will explain certain traits, genetics, beliefs, or behaviors in the family that could be contributing to the low weight.

Strategies to Promote Proactivity

Provide Education on the Child’s Health and Management

The strategy would focus on improving the child and family’s understanding of the risk factors and negative implications of being underweight. They should understand the possible risk factors in the family history and beneficial habits that they need to adapt and influence a positive outcome. Nutritional education would be necessary particularly on appropriate meal portions for the girl and her parent. The family needs to be educated on the right servings of fruits, carbohydrates, and proteins to maintain a healthy body (Roche et al., 2017). Moreover, it is crucial to let the family know about the dangers of failing to maintain recommended weights and the risk of being underweight.

The provider should make every effort to promote the health literacy of the family and use the right method based on the ability of the parent to understand (Efevbera et al., 2018). Using straightforward language can enable people who dropped out of school in the early years to understand the necessary concepts and appreciate the recommended treatment plan.

Promote Healthy Eating by Providing Resources and Advocating for the Child

Providing resources can help the family overcome financial challenges and access quality food to maintain a healthy weight. The provider should advocate for the family to be considered in the federal food programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could be appropriate choices for the family. Moreover, several government programs can provide vouchers for the family to buy food to help meet their nutritional needs.


In conclusion, being underweight exposes children to many health issues and risks that can affect their development and growth. Every effort should be made to support them to gain recommended weights including the provision of education and resources. The provider should consider issues affecting the child based on the family history to offer appropriate support. This can be made possible by asking the right questions and applying appropriate strategies to support the family. It would be necessary to establish a friendly environment between the child and parent to facilitate the provision of the right information and correct treatment option.


Ali, Z., Saaka, M., Adams, A. G., Kamwininaang, S. K., & Abizari, A. R. (2017). The effect of maternal and child factors on stunting, wasting, and underweight among preschool children in Northern Ghana. BMC Nutrition, 3(1), 1-13. Web.

Efevbera, Y., Bhabha, J., Farmer, P., & Fink, G. (2018). Child marriage and underweight in sub-Saharan Africa: a 35 country cross-national study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(2), S25-S26. Web.

Roche, M. L., Marquis, G. S., Gyorkos, T. W., Blouin, B., Sarsoza, J., & Kuhnlein, H. V. (2017). A community-based positive deviance/hearth infant and young child nutrition intervention in Ecuador improved diet and reduced underweight. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 49(3), 196-203. Web.

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NursingBird. "Health Issues Affecting an Underweight Child." September 9, 2022.