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India\'s malnutrition rates falling faster than before; Bihar, UP worst performers
 
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were the worst performers, with high levels of stunting, calling for immediate action to be taken in those areas.

By Aradhna Wal




The report, that details nutrition data from across 28 states and Delhi, shows that 38.7 per cent of children under 5 in India are stunted, which is a measure of chronic undernutrition.
 

India's latest data on the state of nutrition came as a mixed bag, with malnutrition rates declining faster than before but not nearly fast enough for to meet global targets. The India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 was released on Thursday by union health minister JP Nadda and Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi. The report, and health experts from Public Foundation of India and the International Food Policy Research Institute, who jointly organised the launch, cautiously congratulated India for its progress, but stressed that a lot more needed to be done, and fast.

The report, that details nutrition data from across 28 states and Delhi, shows that 38.7 per cent of children under 5 in India are stunted, which is a measure of chronic undernutrition. Additionally 19.8 per cent are wasted, indicating acute undernutrition and 42.56 per cent are underweight which is a composite of the two conditions.

India's average annual rate of decline for under-five stunting, between 2006-2014 has been 2.3 percent per year, much better than the 1.2 percent per year rate that the country saw during 1992 and 2006. However, India still lags behind its neighbours and even some sub-Saharan countries. Nepal has an average annual decline rate of 3.3 percent per year, and Bangladesh matches that of India.

This, as Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan from PHFI, co-author of the report, said, meant that child undernutrition weakly correlated with income, as despite India's economic dominance in subcontinent ïn terms of per capita income".

This has been observed among states too, as different states with similar income levels performed differently. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, for example have similar income levels, yet Gujarat had a much higher rate of prevalence of stunting. Kerala and Goa had similar rates of stunting prevalence when Goa has almost double of Kerala's per capita net state domestic product.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were the worst performers, with high levels of stunting, calling for immediate action to be taken in those areas.

Additionally, there is the added burden of obesity and overweight populace leading to a possible epidemic of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as Dr, Soumya Swaminathan, director general Indian Council of Medical Research pointed out. She also called for a relook at existing midday meal schemes, to reconstitute their carbohydrate content with proteins, and make sure micronutrients were sufficient,.

Dr. Laurence Haddad, co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report, also released today, and a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute urged India to increase its commitment and its spending on countering malnutrition.

Health minister Nadda, took note of all the points, especially Haddad's argument of spending on nutrition being a great investment for the country -- one rupee spent on a person would yielded Rs 34, a benefit cost ratio of 34 is to 1. He also spoke about the various interventions by his ministry, such as a mandatory 48 hour period to stay in hospitals during childbirth to provide counselling and initiate breastfeeding, establishing nutrition rehabilitation centres at district and sub-district levels, and the National Iron Plus Initiative to control anemia at all stages of life.

Experts also called on the government to check other social determinants, such as mothers with less than ten years of education, underage mothers, adolescent girls with low Body Mass Index, open defecation, so as to save people from the irreversible effects of cognitive impairment and susceptibility to chronic disease, and the country from a disastrous economic burden.

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