‘Educate women to address issue of anaemic children’

 Half of the pregnant women and 74% of children under five in India are anaemic, a malnutrition mapping project developed by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with support from Amway released recently stated. The report also highlighted the fact that 62 percent of children show insufficient vitamin A status and under nutrition is the leading risk factor for death in children under five. The report stated that as half of the country’s pregnant women are anaemic it enhances the risk of maternal mortality as well as chances of delivering babies with low birth weight.
FPJ spoke with medical experts to understand the implications anaemia has on the health of children and adults. Despite the measures taken to control anaemia in pregnancy in the last decades, the severity of nutritional anaemia continues to remain a public health issue of great magnitude. Poor nutritional status of pregnant women results in poor nutritional status of their children, including deficiency of iron.
“Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy is linked to an increase risk of preterm delivery and lowbirth weight. It is also associated with increased risk of newborn deaths,” said Dr Ashok Shukla, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. “A mother’s iron deficiency early in pregnancy may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the brain development of the child. Foetal brain development has long lasting effect on baby’s personality. Every 3rd Indian baby born is low birth-weight or pre-term delivery,” said Dr Hemant Joshi, Paediatrian.
Poverty and illiteracy along with improper food habits lead to vital nutritional deficiency in childhood which continues in adolescence and later in the young age. This vicious cycle is the cause of alarming poor nutritional status in population at large in developing countries. Iron and protein deficiency is common amongst vegetarians. This result in poor body stature, poor body defences causing frequent illnesses, more neonatal deaths, maternal mortality and morbidity.
Experts feel that this problem needs to be addressed at various levels. The prevalence of anaemia is least in Kerala. It has been observed during research studies in Kerala that literacy rate is inversely proportional to malnutrition. Malnutrition has significantly decreased in Kerala as the literacy rate has increased.
“A massive drive for implementing right to education will help significantly the purpose of improving nutrition and curing anaemia, said Dr Shreekant Chorghade, eminent Paediatrician who has authored several books on neo-natal and child care. “As per new guidelines adolescent population is to be targeted first. Good nutritional status in adolescent girls will result in their improved nutritional status as they enter into child bearing age. This will result into better neonatal health and subsequent childcare, added Dr Chorghade.
  • Anaemia is the common nutritional disease in developing countries.
  • It affects women of reproductive age and children.
  • Anaemia causes fatigue and stress, consequently reducing productivity and workcapacity.
  • Try to have a multiple coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Experts stress on targeting improvement in the nutritional habits at all levels. “A healthy diet is a prerequisite for any anaemic patients. Stress on eating food rich in proteins and vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients is to be promoted. Foods that are rich in folic acid should also be included in the diet apart from most important ingredient iron, added Dr Chorghade.
“It has been observed that the new generation is turning to wrong food habits by eating junk food. Consuming high amounts of junk food like chocolate bars, french fries and other high-fat, high-sugar foods also reduces available iron,” added Dr. Joshi.
“Regular school health check up should include the check up of Haemoglobin levels. The children found to be deficient should be given iron and vitamin supplements and should be counseled on right food habits,” added Dr Chorghade.
Dr. Dr veena Waikar, Gynaecologist said, “ Different colours indicate different nutrient profiles, so focus on getting a little of each color in your diet every day to maximize the nutritional benefits. Try to include green vegetables, orange and yellow fruits, blue and purple fruits, white fruits and vegetables.”
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