Addressing the unequal burden of malnutrition

Addressing the unequal burden of malnutrition

In India, the poor are not uniformly disadvantaged. Nutrition data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 shows that malnutrition is particularly prevalent amongst the STs. Scs, other Backward Classes (OBC) and Muslims than other caste and religious groups.

This paper looks at the disparity in the burden of malnutrition among different disadvantaged groups in India. It notes that malnutrition levels of women and children from SC and ST communities are higher that those of the general category and the pace of decline of undernutrition across these groups is much slower that that in the general category.

The authors note that malnutrition is directly affected not only by income levels, education and public health but also by social identity. They therefore suggest that the various disparities and deficiencies in the socio-economic environment needs to be addressed to endure equal and non-discriminatory access to public services, markets and opportunities for all social ethnic and religious groups.

Policy suggestions to improve the nutrition status of the poor include:

  • Increasing income
  • Girls’ education and awareness of nutrition and health
  • Reaching the unreached
  • Establishing Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and fair price food shops in underserved SC, ST and Muslim areas.
  • Recruiting AWWs and ANMs from SC, ST and Muslim communities.
  • Monitoring and using data disaggregated by social groups at all levels to identify underserved communities/groups.
  • Conducting national public awareness campaigns against discriminatory practices, integrating relevant messages into school curricula and ensuring that public/social services emphasize social inclusion.
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