Malnutrition deaths among under-five children in the country have dropped by two-thirds between 1990 and 2017, but it still remains the underlying risk factor for 68 per cent of child deaths, according to a study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.
The first comprehensive estimates of disease burden due to child and maternal malnutrition and the trends of its indicators in every state from 1990 have been published by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative.
The findings show malnutrition is still the leading risk factor for disease burden in persons of all ages considered together contributing 17 per cent of the total DALYs (disability adjusted life years).
The DALY rate attributable to malnutrition in children varies seven-fold between the states and is highest in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Nagaland and Tripura, the study noted.
Among the malnutrition indicators, low birth weight is the largest contributor to child deaths in India, followed by child growth failure which includes stunting, underweight, and wasting, the study stated.
According to the key findings of the study, the prevalence of low birth weight was 21 per cent in India in 2017, ranging from 9 per cent in Mizoram to 24 per cent in Uttar Pradesh.
The annual rate of reduction was 1.1 per cent in India between 1990 and 2017.
The prevalence of child stunting was 39 per cent in India in 2017, the study stated. This ranged from 21 per cent in Goa to 49 pe cent in Uttar Pradesh. Its annual rate of reduction was 2.6 per cent in India between 1990 and 2017.
The prevalence of child underweight was 33 per cent in India in 2017, ranging from 16 per cent in Manipur to 42 per cent in Jharkhand. Its annual rate of reduction was 3.2 per cent between 1990 and 2017.
According to the study the prevalence of child anaemia was 60 per cent in India in 2017, ranging from 21 per cent in Mizoram to 74 per cent in Haryana.
The state-specific findings described in this scientific paper highlight the extent of the effort needed in each state to achieve the national and global targets for various malnutrition indicators.
The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative is a joint initiative of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health along with stakeholders associated with over 100 Indian institutions, involving many leading health scientists and policy makers from India.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Balram Bhargava said the government in its commitment to the Poshan Abhiyaan (nutrition mission) is taking important steps to augment monitoring of malnutrition indicators across the country.
On the release of these findings, Professor Vinod K Paul, Member NITI Aayog said September is being observed as ‘Poshan Maah’ (nutrition month) with the aim of reaching every household with the message of nutrition. The trends reported in this scientific paper for every state indicate the efforts needed in each state to control malnutrition, he asserted.
“State governments are being encouraged to intensify efforts to reduce malnutrition and undertake robust monitoring to track the progress. Focus on improving the overall nutritional status of girls and women during the preconception and pregnancy period, providing quality antenatal care will positively influence low birth weight indicators and extend the benefits to next generation,” he said.