News on Wellness

Developing Economy Is Less Directly Linked To Reducing Children Undernutrition


Economic growth is at best associated with levels of stunting, underweight, and wasting. This calls for investment in interventions that impact health and nutrition directly, to deal with child undernutrition.

Worldwide, 2.6 million child deaths occur due to malnutrition each year, which is one third of total child deaths.
It was a collaborative study involving researchers from the University of Göttingen, the Harvard School of Public Health, ETH Zürich and the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar. Researchers analysed samples of children under three years of age, taken from 121 Demographic and Health surveys in 36 low-income and middle-income countries from 1990 to 2011. Changes in per-head GDP were compared to stunting (460,000 children), underweight (485,000), and wasting (460,000).

There stood no link between economic growth with child undernutrition at national levels, particularly with child nutrition in poorest families, who are at immense risk. At individual level, per-head GDP showed 5% increase whereas reduction in stunting was as low as 0.4%, underweight at 1.1% and wasting 1.7%.

Authors say, undernutrition in developing countries may be due to three reasons: rising incomes of households may not be diverted to improve nutrition; distribution of growth within countries is uneven, poorer households are left unaffected; and rise in national incomes does not itself reduce child undernutrition unless necessary public investments are done.

Economic growth is of very little help in reduction of child undernutrition in developing countries, if any at all. A strategy focusing directly on interventions targeting nutrition, as well as interventions focused on improving the overall lifestyle that would reduce infection (eg, improving basic public health infrastructure such as water, sanitation) is of prime importance rather than relying on strategy solely based on economic growth, as said by Professor S V Subramanian, who is from Harvard School of Public Health, USA, and is senior author of the study.

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