Towards a healthy India

Deepak Sood | Updated on February 28, 2021

Poshan 2.0: Creating synergies in nutrition delivery

Many studies have underlined the correlation between health improvements and economic growth in developing countries. Therefore, like education, health is a fundamental element that drives growth and leads to a higher per capita income. The Budget announcement of Mission Poshan 2.0 aims to achieve just that.

The Covid-19 pandemic heightened the world’s focus on nutrition, health and well-being, especially in a country like India where even before the coronavirus attack could disrupt the meal programme’s delivery mechanism — stories of malnutrition among kids were emerging.

The government plans to intensify and strengthen the country’s overall nutritional-ecosystem, the content, delivery, outreach, and outcome across 112 aspirational districts. It amalgamated various programmes which had similar objectives such as Supplementary Nutrition Programme and Poshan Abhiyan under one big umbrella of Poshan 2.0 for creating syngeries in operation and adopting an integrated approach in nutrition services mechanism.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allotted ₹20,105 crore in the Budget 2021-22 for the Mission Poshan and Saksham Anganwadi schemes together.

Intensifying the government’s efforts at this juncture is imperative as the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) published in December 2020 highlighted areas needing improvement.

As per the survey data, the nutrition delivery system has received a setback. In the 22 States and Union Territories surveyed in phase I, most of the States recorded higher levels of stunting, wasting, underweight, and anemia than NFHS-4.

Though the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown may have aggravated meal programme delivery and other nutrition services, the government needs to think of revamping the delivery mechanism for maximising the impact. Otherwise, meeting the ambitious target set by the government in Poshan 2.0 would be difficult.

Implementing it right

It is expected that the consolidation of the schemes will enhance the reach of the government’s initiatives towards achieving the outcome in urban and especially in rural areas. At the same time, emphasis will have to be put on assuaging the voices of concern heard from different sections of the society by getting the implementation right. At this point, details on how the amalgamation would spread across the chain are awaited.

Mission Poshan 2.0 also subsumes two comparatively smaller schemes — Scheme for Adolescent Girls to tackle the under-nutrition of out-of-school girls aged 11-14 years and the National Crèche Scheme, which provides supplementary nutrition to children below six years.

Poshan 2.0 will focus on holistic development, providing girls life skills, vocational training, and counselling will be critical to support working women and enhance female workforce participation in the post-Covid era.

We look forward to the government’s action plan which will address the needling issues and continue nourishing and nurturing women and children to improve their health status. It is also critical to raise public awareness of nutrition practices that promote good health and wellness by bringing in traditional wisdom in nutritional practices.

Improving the infrastructure

The government also needs to look at the nutrition matrix in totality. Various environmental elements lead to poor nutrition such as availability of health services, food security, clean water, sanitation facilities, availability of livelihood, and education infrastructure. There needs to be an equally supportive policy framework to address such issues. There has been long-pending demand for improving food quality and making the Anganwadi network more robust for last-mile reach of the Mission Poshan 2.0.

With the renewed vigour shown by the government, we believe, and as stated by Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, that Mission Poshan 2.0 will develop practices that will nurture health, wellness, and immunity of children and pregnant women.

These concerted efforts towards eradicating malnutrition from its roots, will result in a beneficial outcome where income will be a by-product of good health of the nation’s citizens.

The writer is the Secretary-General of Assocham

Published on February 28, 2021

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