'Migration must stop to improve nutrition level'

'Migration must stop to improve nutrition level'

High migration to Delhi from rural India is hampering efforts to contain low nutritional levels among children and women.

Literacy, gender inequality and poor living conditions cannot be tackled when a large population is in flux, said experts on Monday.

“Delhi is going through a crisis. A huge migration happened in 1982 during Asian Games. Again a lot of construction workers came to the city during the Commonwealth Games. Projected estimates show close to 50 per cent of Delhi’s population will be living in slums by 2030,” said Dr Chandrakant S Pandav, head, centre for community medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

He said improving socio-economic indicators is a long-term goal which cannot be fully applied to a moving population. Land distribution and land ownership has to be ensured in rural India to reduce migration to urban areas.

“High incidence of urbanisation leads to poor living conditions which also impacts nutrition among a population,” he said.

Dr Pandav was speaking at the inaugural session of the conference on Role of Social Determinants in Improving Nutrition Scenario of India. The conference, to be organised on February 28, will look at the role of economic and social conditions that can shape public health in India. 

“The deteriorating health of the poor is due to many reasons like unequal distribution of income, goods and services. This unequal distribution is the result of a combination of unfair socio-economic policies and sometimes, bad politics,” said Sir Michael G Marmot, director, UCL Institute of Health Equity, London. He was also Chair of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health from 2005 to 2008.

He cited the case of Ahmedabad in this regard.

“By improving living conditions, health inequities can be checked; slum upgrading in Ahmedabad is one example. Here, investment of only $500 per household and community contribution of $50 per household improved living conditions drastically due to which there was decline in waterborne diseases and malnutrition,” he said.

He added the key determinants of nutrition level lie outside the healthcare system. He said children with malnourishment end up being less intelligent and have other problems later in life. 

Dr Ajay Kumar, former president of Indian Medical Association, emphasised the need to link policy planning with social determinants.