Final NFHS reports brings out stark reality of situation of India’s children and women. It was released today by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This report offers a comprehensive picture of the health, nutrition and population in the country. The national report paints a mixed picture of India’s overall reproductive health status. On the one hand, women are having fewer children and infant mortality has dropped in the seven-year period since the last NFHS survey in 1998-99. On the other hand, anaemia and malnutrition are still widespread among children and adults. NFHS-3, the third in the NFHS series of surveys, provides information on population, health and nutrition in India and each of its 29 states. The survey is based on a sample of households that is representative at the national and state levels. It conducted interviews with around 200,000 women age 15-49 and men age 15-54 throughout India. NFHS-3 also tested more than 100,000 women and men for HIV and 215,000 adults and young children for anaemia. The data set on key indicators provides a trend that includes information on several new topics, such as HIV/AIDS-related attitudes and behaviour, male involvement in family welfare and attitudes about family life education for children in school.
Malnutrition Persists; Anaemia Widespread
Malnutrition continues to be a significant health problem for children and adults in India. While there have been some improvements in the nutritional status of young children in several states, nutritional deficiencies are still widespread. There has been the increase in wasting, or weight for height, among children under age 3 years. Around 23% of children were wasted. At the same time, there has been very marginal change in the percentage of children who are underweight (43% in NFHS-2 and 40% in NFHS-3).
NFHS-3 also found high prevalence of anaemia – 70% – in children age 6-59 months. Anaemia in India is primarily linked to poor nutrition.
Women and men suffer a dual burden of overnutrition and undernutrition. More than one third of women are too thin, while 13% are overweight or obese. In all, nearly half of married women are either underweight or overweight. One-third of men are too thin, and 9% are overweight or obese. The states with the largest percentage of overweight women and men are Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi, especially among the more educated.
Anaemia is also disturbingly common among adults. More than half of women in India (55%) are anaemic. Anaemia among pregnant women during that period has also increased. Even though men are much less likely than women to be anaemic, anaemia levels in men are at around 24%.
Diarrhoea continues to be a major health problem for many children. Although knowledge about Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhoea is widespread among mothers, only 58% of children with diarrhoea were taken to a health facility, down from 65% seven years earlier.