Women’s health crucial to combat stunting: study


A first of-its-kind study across all 640 districts of the country, highlights the impact of women’s health on stunting of children.

About the study:

  • According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study, analysing data from the National Family Health Survey (NHFS)- IV, parameters related to women, including education and age at marriage, account for 50% of the difference between districts with high and low levels of stunting among children below the age of five.
  • Across the country, in 239 districts more than 40% of the children are stunted, while 202 districts record between 30% and 40 % of stunting. Only 29 districts have levels between 10% and 20%, most of them in south India, the study reports.
  • The populous northern States account for more than 80% of stunted children at 52.6 million.
  • In comparison, all of the southern States together have 8.1 million stunted children and the north-eastern and island States account for nearly 2.4 million.
  • Within the States, however, the levels vary with regions in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka recording high prevalence.

Key Facts:

  • India accounts for approximately a third of the world’s stunted children at 63 million.
  • While levels have improved in the country from 48% in 2006 to 38.4% in 2016, there are wide variations among different districts ranging between 12.4% and 65.1%.
  • The four crucial parameters in women that together contribute to a 44% reduction in stunting among children are levels of body mass index accounting for 19% of the difference between districts; education accounting for 12% of the difference; age at marriage contributing a 7% reduction and ante-natal care adding 6%.
  • Among other important factors highlighted by the study are adequate diet for children (9%), household assets (7%) and open defecation (7%).

Women’s health crucial to combat stunting: study

Need of the Hour:

  • The research highlights the need for targeted policy intervention to combat stunting, with a focus on addressing critical determinants in individual districts.
  • Women related parameters are great drivers and these have to be focussed upon. This will involve interventions through the course of a girl’s life such as her education, nutrition, marriage as well as when she is a mother.


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