ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Some Good News

Health and nutrition indicators have improved, but remain unacceptably low.

After a hiatus of a decade, we now have up-to-date information on the health and nutrition status of the population. Preliminary results for 13 states and two union territories of the much awaited National Family Health Survey–4 (NFHS–4) which was conducted in 2015–16—the first after NFHS–3 of 2005–06—have just been released. In a welcome development, NFHS–4, for the first time, will also provide estimates at the district level. Given the wide intra-state variations, for meaningful programming it is imperative that disaggregated data is available. Such data needs to be collected at regular intervals so that there is some basis on which policies are formulated and investments made.

The data presents a mixed picture of substantial improvement in certain aspects and stagnation in other areas. While the data from all the states will only be available later this year, the positive news is that there is some improvement in fertility rates, infant mortality rates and the malnutrition situation among children. A simple average for the states for which data is available in NFHS–4 shows a decline in stunting among children under five from 43% to 32%. These seem to reinforce the findings from the Rapid Survey on Children, 2013–14 (RSoC), which showed a decline in stunting among children under five to about 38%. A similar decline is seen in the prevalence of underweight children under five from 39% to 29% (42% to 29% at the all-India level according to the RSoC).

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