Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research
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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 126  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 249-261

Poverty nutrition linkages

Nutrition Foundation of India, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
P Ramachandran
Nutrition Foundation of India, New Delhi, India

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 18032800

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At the time of independence majority of Indians were poor. In spite of spending over 80 per cent of their income on food, they could not get adequate food. Living in areas of poor environmental sanitation they had high morbidity due to infections; nutrition toll due to infections was high because of poor access to health care. As a result, majority of Indians especially children were undernourished. The country initiated programmes to improve economic growth, reduce poverty, improve household food security and nutritional status of its citizens, especially women and children. India defined poverty on the basis of calorie requirement and focused its attention on providing subsidized food and essential services to people below poverty line. After a period of slow but steady economic growth, the last decade witnessed acceleration of economic growth. India is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world with gross domestic product (GDP) growth over 8 per cent. There has been a steady but slow decline in poverty; but last decade's rapid economic growth did not translate in to rapid decline in poverty. In 1970s, country became self sufficient in food production; adequate buffer stocks have been built up. Poor had access to subsidized food through the public distribution system. As a result, famines have been eliminated, though pockets of food scarcity still existed. Over the years there has been a decline in household expenditure on food due to availability of food grains at low cost but energy intake has declined except among for the poor. In spite of unaltered/declining energy intake there has been some reduction in undernutrition and increase in overnutrition in adults. This is most probably due to reduction in physical activity. Under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme food supplements are being provided to children, pregnant and lactating women in the entire country. In spite of these, low birth weight rates are still over 30 per cent and about half the children are undernourished. While poverty and mortality rates came down by 50 per cent, fertility rate by 40 per cent, the reduction in undernutrition in children is only 20 per cent. National surveys indicate that a third of the children from high income group who have not experienced any deprivations are undernourished. The high undernutrition rates among children appears to be mainly due to high low birthweight rates, poor infant and young child feeding and caring practices. At the other end of the spectrum, surveys in school children from high income groups indicate that between 10-20 per cent are overnourished; the major factor responsible appears to be reduction in physical activity. Some aspects of the rapidly changing, complex relationship between economic status, poverty, dietary intake, nutritional and health status are explored in this review.

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