India faces multiple causes of malnutrition

Jan 20, 2016


Dr. Rajiv Tandon, Senior Technical Advisor for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Nutrition based in PATH's New Delhi office and long-time advocate of public health and nutrition, will be speaking at the 53rd Annual Conference of Indian Academy of Pediatrics (PEDICON) this week in Hyderabad. At his remarks during PEDICON, he will speak to those factors (such as socioeconomic issues) that interfere with children thriving in low-resource countries. 


A pediatrician who has significant experience in supporting the Government of India systems and programs— such as the national five-year plans, the Reproductive and Child Health Programme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the National Health Mission, and the  Integrated Child Development Services of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and the Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India—Dr. Tandon also points out that India today has the dual burden of malnutrition due to lack of access to nutrients and to unhealthy eating habits, which are now leading to non-communicable diseases.


Detailing the South Asian enigma around the high incidence of low-birth-weight infants and intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, he highlights the task that India still faces. The high prevalence of gastroenteritis in India, which exacerbates malnutrition, remains due to social cultural practices and geographies like rapid urbanization that create a different set of public health and nutrition-related issues in the rural and urban poor environments.


Apart from this is the diversity of religion, caste, tribe, language, and dialect, all of which makes addressing social and behavioral changes extremely contextual and difficult to achieve through a one-size-fits all approach. All of this also contributes to the need to look into in-country migration, inequity, governance, and gender dimensions.


Malnutrition and diarrheal disease go hand in hand. Underscoring the lack of appropriate public health systems, Dr. Tandon emphasizes the importance of continuing to prevent and treat diarrheal disease using proven interventions like ORS and zinc, proper handwashing with soap and water, vaccines, and better sanitation facilities. 


Speaking about the diarrheal disease burden in India and the progress that has been made in reducing the incidence over the past four decades, he applauds the Government of India's decision to introduce the easy to administer oral rotavirus vaccine in the Universal Immunization Programme in four of 36 States in February 2016.  


Photo credit: Marc Koska.