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Field trial of a haemoglobin colour scale: an effective tool to detect anaemia in preschool children

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The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of the Haemoglobin Colour Scale, developed by Stott and Lewis, to diagnose anaemia in a primary health care setting where anaemia was prevalent and severe. Three measures of anaemia were compared in 535 preschool children: haemoglobin based on the Haemoglobin Colour Scale, clinical assessment in three sites (conjunctiva, palm and nail bed) and haemoglobin based on a digital haemoglobinometer (HemoCue method) taken as gold standard. A statistically significant correlation (= 0.80, coefficient = 0.77 and Y intercept = 2.33) was obtained between the results of the Haemoglobin Colour Scale and the HemoCue. In more than 80% of cases, the difference between the colour scale readings and the results of the HemoCue was within 1 g/dl. Of 415 anaemic children (Hb < 11 g/dl by HemoCue), 85.2% were so identified by the Haemoglobin Colour Scale and 19.7% were classified anaemic by clinical pallor. Of 19 severely anaemic children (Hb < 7 g/dl by HemoCue), 73.6% were identified as severely anaemic and 100% were classified as anaemic by the colour scale, 61.1% were classified as anaemic using clinical pallor. We found the Haemoglobin Colour Scale to be a useful tool in identifying anaemic and severely anaemic children. Efficiencies in term of cost, accuracy and time make it an important resource in primary health care settings in developing countries. Further testing with other staff in other settings is recommended to determine the usefulness of large-scale distribution.

Keywords: anaemia; developing countries; haemoglobin colour scale; preschool children

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland 2: Ivo de Carneri Foundation, Milan, Italy 3: Ministry of Health of Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania 4: Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA

Publication date: 2000-02-01

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