India facing dual challenges of undernutrition and obesity; Global Nutrition Report paints bleak picture of healthcare

India is facing dual challenges of undernutrition and, according to a global report that says that the country suffers on three separate counts: Childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age, and overweight adult women.

The 'Global Nutrition Report 2017', which looked at 140 countries, including India, found "significant burdens" of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends. It said 51 percent women in the country are underweight, while 22 percent are overweight.

Furthermore, 38 percent children (less than 5-years-old) are affected by childhood stunting, of which 21 percent have been categorised as "wasted" or "severely wasted": Meaning they do not weigh enough for their height.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

While the country has shown some progress in addressing "stunting" among children aged less than five, it has made no progress or presents worse outcomes in the percentage of reproductive-age women with anaemia, and is off-course in terms of reaching targets for reducing adult obesity and diabetes, the report said.

"The 'Global Nutrition Report' highlights that the double burden of undernutrition and obesity needs to be tackled as part of India's national nutrition strategy," said Purnima Menon, an independent expert group on the report.

"For undernutrition especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap," said Menon, a senior research fellow in the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)'s South Asia Office in New Delhi, said.

The report also calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change. "We know that a well-nourished child is one-third more likely to escape poverty," said Jessica Fanzo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

"They will learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies. Good nutrition provides the brainpower, the 'grey matter infrastructure' to build the economies of the future," said Fanzo, also the Global Nutrition Report's co-chair.

The report also found that 88 percent of countries faced a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition. It highlighted the damaging impact this burden is having on broader global development efforts.

The report found that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with two billion of the world's seven billion people now overweight or obese and a less than one percent chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025.

In India, 16 percent of adult men and 22 percent of adult women are overweight.


Updated Date: Nov 09, 2017 14:39 PM

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