Most stunted children in Bellary, Shimoga

Commissioned by Department of Women and Child Development, the study was conducted by the southern regional centre of National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD). The report was submitted to the Government two months ago. The report draws significance since it is the first time any such survey has been done to verify the nutritional levels among children at a crucial age - below six years.

Under the study, 1,811 children from seven districts – Bangalore, Shimoga, Kodagu, Mysore, Bellary, Bidar and Uttara Kannada – were assessed for underweight (weight for age), stunting (height for age) and wasting (weight for height). Interestingly, girls fared better than boys in all the three categories. It was felt that it could be due to popularity of Bhagyalakshmi scheme or that girls had better coping mechanism than boys.

Another reason cited by NIPCCD director Dr M S Tara was the shift from old nutrition assessment standards that were common for both genders to the new gender-specific WHO standards.

“The study indicates that girls have done better but this is because we used the WHO standards. If we were to measure the children on the old standards, girls would have continued to fare poor,” she said.  The study also disclosed the rise in stunting among children below six. According to National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3) data for 2005-06, 44 per cent children under five were stunted in the State while the NIPCCD report showed stunting rate close to 49 per cent. The prevalence was high among children aged between eight to 11 months and critical at 3.5 to four years of age. Dr Tara explained that stunting meant deficit nutrition over a period of time. And, stunting along with underweight can prove to be dangerous.

Recommendations

Although the anganwadi centres presently did not take into account stunting as a growth indicator, the report suggested that it be done from now on. Since the study did not portray the entire State, it suggested studies be carried out in other districts to compile baseline data. This would be beneficial in formulating policies. The department has implemented 50 per cent of the suggestions. However, assessment of stunting along with weight in anganwadi centres would be delayed, said department director Shyamala Iqbal. “We want the data from all districts based on new WHO standards to stabilise first. If we include stunting now, it would create unnecessary confusion,” she said. The department has received nutritional status data of another eight districts collected by JSS University, Mysore.

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