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Malnutrition in India: status and government initiatives

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Malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. It is well-known that maternal, infant, and child nutrition play significant roles in the proper growth and development, including future socio-economic status of the child. Reports of National Health & Family Survey, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and WHO have highlighted that rates of malnutrition among adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and children are alarmingly high in India. Factors responsible for malnutrition in the country include mother’s nutritional status, lactation behaviour, women’s education, and sanitation. These affect children in several ways including stunting, childhood illness, and retarded growth. Although India has nominally reduced malnutrition over the last decade, and several government programs are in place, there remains a need for effective use of knowledge gained through studies to address undernutrition, especially because it impedes the socio-economic development of the country. These findings may provide useful lessons for other developing countries that are working towards reducing child malnutrition in their settings.

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The authors would like to thank Ms. Aarti Khanna for proofreading assistance.

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Correspondence to Jitendra Narayan.

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Narayan, J., John, D. & Ramadas, N. Malnutrition in India: status and government initiatives. J Public Health Pol 40, 126–141 (2019).

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