Improving childhood nutrition in India

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7188 (Published 16 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7188
  1. K Srinath Reddy, president
  1. 1Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi-110070, India
  1. ksrinath.reddy{at}phfi.org

The call for a national nutritional strategy is rational and timely

The results of the third round of the National Family Health Survey (2005-6) interrupted India’s celebration of the impressive economic growth rate of the preceding decade. The survey showed that 46% of children under 3 years and 40% under 5 years were underweight for age.1 This disconnect between economic growth and child nutrition has since been widely discussed and analysed.2 The public is now calling for policy makers to respond to this challenge with urgency, effectiveness, and equity.

The linked analysis article by Haddad and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.d6687) lists several factors that may have contributed to the high and uncorrected rates of child undernutrition in India. It suggests several measures that can improve the design, delivery, and monitoring of multi-sectoral programmes for improving nutrition in this vulnerable age group.3 It concludes with the plea for a national nutritional strategy to provide a clear pathway for coherent, cohesive, and coordinated action.

The assertion that India’s poverty rate has shown a decline similar to China’s—thereby discarding poverty as an explanation for unredressed undernutrition—is open to challenge. With the criteria for defining poverty being highly debated in …

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