As you all know, the first week of September is celebrated as the National Nutrition Week in India. This year, health experts of the country want to draw your attention towards major health issues such as under-nutrition, over-nutrition, and micro-nutrient deficiencies in women and children. The National Nutrition Week was launched in 1982 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to raise awareness among the masses about the importance of nutrition for the human body. The CEO of Integrated Health and Wellbeing Council in New Delhi, Dr. Kamal Narayan Omer, says, “Despite beginning nutrition-oriented development programs especially focussed on children, like integrated child development services 45 years ago, India still has children suffering from undernutrition and malnutrition, stunting, wasting, and other problems. On the other hand, children in well-to-do families are suffering due to heavy intake of refined foods and carbonated beverages.”
Let’s look at a few statistics about nutritional health issues in India, shall we? You’d be surprised to learn that one in five school-going children and one in four adults in India are overweight. Also, according to a report released by the UN 2017, 38.5% of children in India are stunted and India has a burden of nearly 190.7 million undernourished people. But, the health experts of the country believe that one-third of diseases in India can be overcome by consuming the right diet. Dr. More further added to his statement, “The imbalance needs to be addressed urgently and we must work to find the right alternatives to foods that are causing this nutritional imbalance in the most vulnerable sections of our society.” Various health experts believe that the need of the hour in the country is to grab the attention of people towards nutritional deficiencies in women and newborns.
The Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Healthcare, New Delhi, Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, says, “We need to ensure that the nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive schemes or interventions that benefit the bottom of the pyramid are formed so that the vulnerable population can have access to affirmative actions, services, and entitlements. The community structure and service providers should be accountable enough for early identification and management of malnutrition within communities is vital for addressing malnutrition.” According to Dr. Manisha Ranjan, Consultant in obstetrics and gynecology at Motherhood Hospital claims that the after-effects of the pandemic will render nearly 100 million people in India prone to malnutrition. She further said, “In the patriarchal family structure that India has, children (and the girl child in particular) and women will bear the brunt of this calamity. A woman needs nutrients right from her adolescent age because they undergo a lot of hormonal imbalance as the body prepares for menstruation.”
Malnutrition in women can lead to several further health issues such as intergenerational malnutrition. This problem can lead to babies being born with low birth weight, more susceptible to diseases and growth failure, and high incidences of anemia. Dr. Rajpal, an Associate Professor and Health Economist at IIHMR University, Jaipur, says, “A recent study by researchers from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi has estimated that spending $1 on nutritional interventions in India could generate public economic returns of $19.35-$22.21, which is multiple times more than the global average. This indicates the huge potential we have as well as the gravity of the task since lockdown and economic downfall due to COVID-19 is highly likely to push millions into nutritional deficiency.”
As indicated by health experts across the country, if India doesn’t rise to the occasion and solve the problem of malnutrition in the country, millions will be left in dire straits. What we can do individually is educate people about the importance of nutrition and eating a balanced diet. You can promote the habit of consumption of a well-balanced diet among your children and other women of the house. Together, we can all beat this monster!