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Malnutrition in India


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Nutrition is the very core of human development; hence, methodical management of nutrition can not only eliminate the problem of undernourishment but also may lead to a healthy world.

With consistently high levels of malnutrition in the developing world, opportunities to save many lives are being lost, and millions of children are not growing and developing to their full potential.

In India, practically, every state is different in terms of socio-economic rank, varied food habits, health infrastructure and communication, thus, contributing to a significantly different nutritional status across all the states.  About 20% of children, below 5 years of age, suffer from wasting because of acute under-nutrition. Forty three percent of children, under 5 years of age, in India are underweight and about 48% are chronically malnourished.

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Malnutrition is more prevalent in rural as compared to the urban areas. Variance in nutritional status is also linked with education and literacy of women. Studies have shown that malnutrition is also linked to the societal status of women; for instance, women with higher autonomy would have well nourished children. According to reports, malnourishment in children is responsible for one third of child deaths. Malnourished children who are able to survive may enter a vicious circle of recurring illness, stunted growth, and irreversible damage to cognition.

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Taking care of nutrition in children during the first 2 years of life, girls during adolescence, and mothers during pregnancy and lactation can prevent malnutrition to a greater extent. Nutritional status of the population can be improved by following a comprehensive approach that should include introduction of age appropriate and hygienically prepared food, proper counseling/ training of caregivers on feeding and on appropriate use of locally available food, making quality food and micro nutrient supplements easily available.

In this series we will cover articles addressing malnutrition in children under 5 years, adolescent, pregnant and lactating women.

 (By Priyank Kumar, MS Ph.D.,Touro College of Pharmacy, New York)

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