[Answered] “Even as malnutrition accounted for millions of deaths in children under the age of five in India, there is issue of rising obesity in schoolchildren in many States.” Discuss.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss the issue of obesity, various reasons for obesity and Impact of obesity in India.
Conclusion. Way forward.

While malnutrition continues to be the leading risk factor for deaths in children under five and illness in persons of all ages considered together, the problem of overweight among children is also rapidly increasing across the country. Thus there is pressing need to tackle not only malnutrition problem but also problem of obesity in India.

Issue of obesity in India:

  1. A study conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has found that the prevalence of the overweight problem in children aged from 2 to 14 has increased significantly between 2010 and 2017. 
  2. The incidence of child overweight problem was 11.5 per cent as of 2017. It has projected that the number may rise to 17.5 per cent, which is 14.5% higher than the target of three per cent set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  3. Among various malnutrition indicators, low birth weight is the most significant contributor to child deaths, followed stunting, underweight and wasting.

Reasons for obesity in India 

  1. Lifestyle: People are getting obese due to unhealthy lifestyle. This include unconventional food, sleep, physical activities etc.
  2. Diet: Not taking recommended daily intake (RDI) despite improvement in nutritional status. Although cereal consumption has reduced in compared to 3 decades ago but intake of fat, sugar and oil have increased.  
  3. Unawareness: About the diet patterns, physical activity habits etc. which leads to developing of an unhealthy environment around children.  
  4. Increased income and urbanization: Increased income leads to a rise in the consumption of foods high in fats, sugar and salt and low physical activity.  
  5. Poor sleep patterns: No proper regime of eating, sleeping & doing physical activity is followed. It also intensifies the effects of genetic risk for obesity.  
  6. Food: Traditional foods are being replaced with packed & processed foods.  
  7. Lack of exercise: Only 28% of men & 15% of women exercised in the surveyed states.

Impact of Obesity:

  1. Overweight adults and children are at greater risk for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease. 
  2. It also brings inefficiency to the society, especially in India where labour is a major input factor for economic production. 
  3. It put extra pressure on already fragile health systems in India by posing a high risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and some cancers.
  4. At the same time, we lose out on a healthy and well nourished workforce.

Nutrition is acknowledged as one of the most effective entry points for human development, poverty reduction and economic development, with high economic returns. Tackling obesity benefits the economy and the environment, as healthy and sustainable diets are good for productivity levels and the planet. While tackling undernutrition through assurance of adequate nutrition, we need to ensure that it is also about appropriate nutrition. Our policy response has to move from “food security” to “nutrition security”.

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