India unlikely to meet ‘Poshan Abhiyaan’ targets, finds study

‘The desired rate of improvement under the programme is aspirational’
India is unlikely to meet targets set under the ambitious Poshan Abhiyan or National Nutrition Mission (NNM) for reduction in prevalence of stunting, underweight, low birth weight and anaemia in women and children by 2022 if there is no progress achieved in improving the rate of decline observed between 1990 and 2017, according to a new study published in The Lancet .
Missed targets
The study points out that India will miss its target for stunting levels of 25% by 9.6%; underweight target of 22.7% by 4.8%; desired low birth level of 11.4% by 8.9%; anaemia level among women of 39.4% by 13.8%; and anaemia level among children of 44.7% by 11.7%, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2017, released on Wednesday.
The report is a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Poshan Abhiyan, the world’s largest nutrition programme, expected to benefit 10 crore people and launched in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to reduce stunting, underweight, and low birth weight. However, a senior official at government think-tank NITI Aayog, says that the findings are not worrisome.
“Poshan Abhiyan has doubled the rate [of decline]. For example, it sets a target of 2% reduction per year for underweight, but the percentage of reduction for this indicator typically is 1%. So, we are not worried, ” Dr. Vinod K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog told The Hindu .
Aspirational rates
The study, however, points out that the desired rates of improvement are aspirational.
“Our findings suggest that the malnutrition indicator targets set by NNM for 2022 are aspirational, and the rate of improvement needed to achieve these targets is much higher than the rate observed in this study, which might be difficult to reach in a short period. This slow pace of improvement needs to be accelerated, so that future prevalence of the malnutrition indicators is better than our projections based on trends so far,” said Professor Lalit Dandona, PHFI.

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