Millennium Post

Nourishment for a healthy India

As a country and as an economy, India has managed to have a phenomenal rise in terms of quantitative growth, the GDP increased 50 per cent since 1991, but in terms of qualitative growth, the picture remains bleak with more than 30 per cent of the world's malnourished children living in India; and over half of these being under the age of three when over one-third of the wealthiest children are over-nutriented. This stark divide points to the obvious culprit: inequality, particularly in the economic sense. Economic inequality lies bear among population groups with low social status as their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. It is only too well known that malnourished women are unlikely to have healthy babies. Hence, the very first component in the cycle of malnutrition is an unhealthy or a malnourished mother. Nutritional deficiencies cause long-term damage to individuals and eventually, the society. Susceptibility to infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis are significantly raised leading to a higher mortality rate. Not only is productivity compromised for a nutrition-deficient person, lesser earning from reduced capacity traps them in the vicious circle of under-nutrition and brings inefficiency to a society like India's where labour is a major input factor for economic production. Emphasising further, the phenomena impacts economic inequality, a very visible part of India grapples with obesity from overnutrition. Obesity is the cause of several non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory illnesses. As per a fresh report by The Lancet, malnutrition is a major contributor to disease burden in India. The study was conducted with the purpose to assess the disease burden due to malnutrition and the trends in its indicators in every state of India in relation to Indian and global nutrition targets. The outcome of this report is certainly of crucial significance for India as the approach to contain malnourishment could be revised to be more focussed on a more clearly defined target. The state-specific findings in this report are pointers for the effort required in each state will be useful in tracking and motivating further progress. The state-centric analyses might be useful for other low-income and middle-income countries. Given the rising economy that India is and the heights it aims to scale, it has the opportunity to set a precedent for other emerging economies to emulate—in containing a problem and in sustaining a resolved situation.

Low birth weight is concluded to be the biggest contributor to disease burden. Following that is stunting. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-led study confirms that malnutrition continues to be the leading cause for death among Indian children under the age of five. The death rate due to malnutrition in children under five years of age has declined by two-thirds between 1990 and 2017 it but still accounts for 68 per cent of deaths in children of the age group. ICMR's comprehensive estimates of disease burden caused by child and maternal malnutrition shed light of the details of the pervasive situation of malnourishment in India. A disease burden is said to be the impact of a health problem measured in terms of financial cost, mortality, morbidity, or other indicators. The study highlights that disease burden attributed to malnutrition in children varies across states by as much as seven times. Among the indicators of malnutrition, low birth weight is the greatest contributor to the disease burden, followed by child growth failure, including stunting, underweight, and wasting. Poor nutritional intake is the beginning of the cycle of malnourishment the effects of which begin with the unhealthy mother, then to an unhealthy infant, and if they do survive, unhealthy growing up, affected productivity, compromised performance and lesser returns keep in motion the cycle of poverty-ridden lives that began with economic inequality. On the part of the government, reduction of inequality as an economic measure is bound to be a complex undertaking with numerous other aspects. Malnutrition in this scheme of things is unlikely to get the attention it deserves. If this economically-born situation is addressed in a social manner, supported with requisite healthcare needs, curbing malnutrition and eradicating its grave effects will be easier to accomplish. A state spotlighted for malnutrition, Assam has taken commendable steps in promoting better health and nutrition among expecting women and children in its southern districts with the very simple initiative of giving out gooseberry candies fortified with jaggery and salt. This candy also happens to be a replacement for iron-folic acid tablets for pregnant women. The consumption of this medicine is avoided by many as it causes constipation or nausea; there are also myths about these tablets being capable of killing people when consumed or making them incapable of conceiving. The acceptability of such an innovative intervention coming out as simple amla candies meet the necessary nutritional requirement of people and also boost immunity levels. Given the gravity and the extent of malnutrition, rethinking methods to address the crisis is the need of the hour. Simple innovative solutions like honey and amla candy are familiar and acceptable to people bearing the brunt of malnutrition.

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