If you think Kerala has the best indicators when it comes to nutritional status among children, it’s time to think again. Move over Kerala, Mizoram is here.
A new report that mapped five major indicators of child malnutrition such as stunting, underweight, wasting, low birth weight and anaemia in India Lok Sabha constituency-wise had seen Mizoram Lok Sabha constituency, currently represented by a Congress MP, emerging as a surprise winner. Barring the category of stunting, Mizoram ranked among the first five adorning the pole position in low birth weight.
The percentage of low birth weight babies (weighing less than 2.5 kg at birth) in Mizoram was just 4 per cent whereas in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, which ranked the poorest, one out of three babies had low birth weight. Significantly, none of the 20 Parliamentary constituencies in Kerala, famed for its otherwise-enviable health record, did not figure in the top-20 list. Interestingly, first five top slots were taken by constituencies from the North-eastern States in this category.
The first-ever report that tracked the performance of 543 Indian Parliamentary constituencies in tackling child malnutrition was released on Wednesday. The data — prepared by a team of public health experts from Harvard University with the support of Tata Trusts — came from the 2016 National Family Health Survey.
The report was conceptualised and prepared a team of researchers led by S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard University. It is meant to “foster comparisons and conversations among the Members of Parliament to promote governance and action on dismantling barriers to health and health equity.”
The idea behind the publication is to show where does each Parliamentary constituency stand in nutritional indicators. Such data currently doesn’t exist at constituency level, the unit of significant political discourse and action, said Subramanian unveiling the report at a meeting organised by Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, a network of 500 of social investors and philanthropists from 32 different countries.
On the other hand, Kerala constituencies crowded out those from other States, particularly in three indices — stunting, underweight and anaemia. While in the case of stunting — a measure of linear growth retardation and cumulative growth deficits — 15 constituencies from Kerala cornered 15 of 20 top ranks.
While Kerala’s Kollam constituency topped with 15 per cent, Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh came last with 64 per cent born there found to be short for their age. On underweight index, 12 among 20 top slots were taken by Kerala constituencies, while in anaemia ranking one third of the top 20 positions went to Kerala.
While only 11 per cent children from Anantnag in Jammu & Kashmir reported underweight, it as high as 61 per cent in Singhbhum constituency in Jharkhand, which occupied the last position. Kollam also reported best performance in tackling anaemia (18 per cent) whereas Dadra & Nagar Haveli constituency was the worst performer with 84 per cent anaemic children.
Wasting is another indicator where constituencies from North-eastern States and J&K did well compared with other States. While only 6 per cent in Inner Manipur were found to have the condition of wasting — a state of being acutely undernourished — it was as high as 40 per cent in Jhamshedpur in Jharkhand.
Significantly, Varanasi, the Parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was found to be falling below the national average in almost all nutritional parameters.