People of India need better nutrition, not free ration

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The burden of NCDs

The triple burden of malnutrition involving non communicable diseases (NCDs) due to increased prevalence of obesity is becoming a major public health concern globally and in urban areas in particular.

According to NFHS-5, 16 states/UTs showed significant increase in percentage of overweight children below five years of age like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Mizoram, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, and Ladakh.

India on one hand runs the risk of malnutrition as well as an epidemic of obesity and other non-communicable diseases related to poor nutrition like diabetes mellitus.

According to Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016–2018, India has already witnessed 10.3% of school-age children and 10.4% of adolescents as pre-diabetic. Alarming figures of NFHS-5 show the prevalence of obesity among 24% women and 22% men.

A new indicator of obesity, namely waist-hip ratio, has put 56.7% women and 47.7% men in the high-risk category which is equally higher in both rural and urban populations.

A remarkable shift in urban diet and food systems like ultra-processed food and beverages, sedentary lifestyle, ever elaborating technology, access to fast foods, empty calorie intake and leisure have been the major contributors.

The risk of obesity can be passed from one generation to the next as a result of behavioral and biological causality which makes it important to be aware of the triple burden of diseases. Thus, it’s important to approach the problem comprehensively for sustainable development with aspirational aims of eliminating malnutrition with zero hunger by 2030.

The scourge of anaemia

Anaemia is matter of concern across all age groups, genders and communities. More than 50% women in reproductive age group suffer from anaemia in India. With other setbacks such as gender disparity, early marriage etc often leading to maternal undernutrition which also affects child nutrition at proportionate levels, this needs an intervention in the form of lifecycle approach.

In a similar way, under- 5 children suffer from anaemia, accounting to an enormous figure of 67%. Although the issue of anaemia is beyond the disparities of socio-economic status, faulty feeding practices are an addition to the causes.

Data from ‘Anaemia Mukt Bharat’ clearly shows that a meagre number of 10-15% children under 5 years of age receive prophylactic Iron Folic Acid doses. A mission which claims to make India anaemia-free by 2022 clearly has large gaps to fulfil.

Reduced financial efficiency and unregulated allotment and distribution of resources have also played major role in the poor performance of the states. Under the budget gap analysis of Anaemia Mukt Bharat, most states did not budget for important assets of the program like research & innovations, drug & warehouse logistics and human resource development. This hampered the essence of the program’s 6x6x6 strategy.

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