State of Nutrition in India

In December 2015, two reports viz. the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) and India Health Report on Nutrition, 2015 (IHR) have been released whose main India related finding is that malnutrition in India is declining faster than before, but the improvement is not fast enough to meet global targets. Here is an overview of these reports.

Global Nutrition Report (GNR) 2015 

The report, prepared by an Independent Expert Group, is a comprehensive analysis of all forms of malnutrition for all 193 countries. The report pointed out that at the global level there is an increase in the number of countries that are progressing towards achieving their global targets and it is encouraging for establishment of national time-bound targets that are consistent with new Sustainable Development Goals.

The two sets of global targets for nutrition are: maternal and child nutrition; and adult overweight and diabetes.

For the first set, five global targets are tracked:

  • stunting, wasting, and overweight among children under age 5;
  • anaemia in women 15–49 years of age; and
  • Rates of exclusive breastfeeding for infants younger than 6 months of age.

For the second set, three global targets are tracked: overweight, obesity and diabetes among adults.

While every country is on track to achieve at least one of the first set of global targets, only 5 countries are on course to meet one of the second set of global targets.

According to the report, India is on track in achieving only two (under-five overweight and exclusive breastfeeding rates) of the eight targets and there is a remarkable improvement in nutritional status in the last 10 years.

The report highlighted the two hiding factors related to nutrition that are not given much attention are climate change and food systems. Our diet choices affect greenhouse gas emissions and climate change will affect nutritional status. The report suggests for reduction of prices of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and pulses.

India Health Report on Nutrition (IHR) 2015

The report gives nutrition status at national level and also state-wise data with its determinants.

Some of the highlights of the report:

  • About 39% of children under 5 are stunted in India. However, it has declined rapidly in the last ten years.
  • About 55% of Indian women (aged 15-49 years) have anaemia or low blood count.
  • About 70% of Indian children (aged 6-35 months) are suffering from anaemia.
  • Only 50% infants of 6-35 months receive sold, semi-solid and soft food.
  • The infant malnutrition might be due to early marriage of women.

The data points to several systemic inequalities in India. For example, there is a larger variability across states in delivery of health and nutrition services. While in Uttar Pradesh, 1 in 5 children receive food provided under Integrated Child Development Services, the reach is over 90% in Odisha. One thing that is without any inter-state variability is the condition of girls and women. Low level of education and early marriage of women are main reasons for poor nutritional outcomes.

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