The 1000 day window of opportunity for improving child nutrition in India: insights from National-level data

The 1000 day window of opportunity for improving child nutrition in India: insights from National-level data

The first 1000 days of life, from conception to the end of the second year, is the critical window of opportunity fro addressing undernutrition in children. Growth faltering in infants, which eventually leads to undernutrition, occurs at this time. Interventions to improve nutrition and reduce the overall burden of undernutrition must therefore prioritize this vulnerable age group.

This study uses data from the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) to show that patterns of child growth in India mirrors global findings and that undernutrition sets in during the window of the first 1000 days of life. The paper also shows that the status of recommended essential nutrition interventions during this window are poor in India with some falling as low as 20-10 per cent.

To address this, the paper concludes with the following recommendations:

  • Implement national and state-level nutrition strategies that focus on evidence-based, high-impact interventions for children under two, adolescent girls, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers;
  • Scale up direct inputs for nutrition through every potential implementation platform, including the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme (to reach adolescent girls) and others:
  • Prioritize community-based delivery with the effective engagement of NGOs, self help groups and others as the main strategy to brings services and support closer to children under two and their mothers;
  • Improve human resource capacity for maternal and child nutrition at all levels and ensure training, guidance, support, recognition and motivation of frontline workers;
  • Focus on measurable results with a strong monitoring and evaluation framework, integrating indicators of maternal and child nutrition across programmes and sectors to measure performance of both programme and sector; and
  • Explore forums such as consultations and e-learning platforms, for state-to-state sharing of better practices for scaling up essential nutrition interventions for children under two and their mothers.
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