Revisiting the National Nutrition Strategy 2018
According to recent studies by Lancet, there is evidence of undernutrition and obesity now co-existing and promoting one another. It has also been found that unsafe food contributes directly / indirectly to nutritional outcomes and that poor eating habits impacts our digestion and thereby nutrition.
Increase in overweight numbers is a result of changes in the food system with access to less nutritional food at a cheap rate coupled with decreased physical activity. This risk is greater in case of higher wealth households and in urban areas. Another reality is food safety impacting nutrition, with unsafe food rendering people vulnerable to around 200 diseases and hence it can be seen as a public health issue. It has now been established that unsafe food affects nutritional and health outcomes directly as well as indirectly. The infection by pathogens can result in malabsorption of nutrients , vitamins and minerals. A combination of unsafe food and undernutrition can result into a cycle of worsening health and carrying a lifetime of disease burden.
It is the right eating habits which are essential to proper digestion and includes simple things like chewing on food, eating at the right time and having enough water between meals.
Addressing the concern
The problem cannot be addressed with a fragmented approach and requires an integrated action to develop a food system which provides everyone with safe and healthy diets. The food system should be able to provide people with sustainable diets. India’s 1993 National Nutritional policy focused on addressing undernutrition via supplementary nutrition. The 2018 policy continues with the same intervention around nutrition of infants, young children, mothers and address defences of vitamins and minerals. The policy does not recognise the interconnection between undernutrition and obesity.
The national nutrition mission was launched to implement the 2018 strategy, which focused on the first one thousand days of a child’s life and real time monitoring of work. Though there has been some progress with these interventions as stunting has come down to 34.7 percent from 38.4 percent from 2015-16 to 2017-18, this not good enough for the country, India still ranks at 102 of 117 countries in the Global huger index. It is way below our neighbours like China (rank of 25), Sri Lanka (rank of 67) and Myanmar (rank of 68) .
The double burden of malnutrition has resulted in poor progress which calls for simultaneous action to address undernutrition and obesity together.
Tackling unsafe food concerns
A recent milk survey shows the presence of aflatoxin, a food contaminant, to be present over permissible levels. This may lead to stunting, growth impairment and reduce chances of long & productive lives of children as it makes them susceptible to diseases.
Addressing the multiple factors requires a coherent action of an integrated policy for the transformation of the country’s food system.