Health before Wealth

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Health before Wealth

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 | Manish Sacheti

Manish Sacheti, at theon-going National Nutrition Week 2018, talks about eradicating malnutrition and creating awareness about healthy living

The average weight of a healthy two-year-old should be at least 8 kg however, Rubina, born in Madhya Pradesh weighs only 6.5 kg. She was not always like this, though. She was born healthy and weighed just right. Over the years, it was observed that she did not grow at a healthy pace, which led the anganwadiworker in her village to declare her as severely malnourished. Such was her condition that doctors whom she was referred to, stated that her malnutrition could stunt her physical growth and cognitive development forever.

While such cases might seem isolated, reality however, is that India is home to the largest number of the world’s cases of child malnutrition. According to a joint study by ASSOCHAM and EY, about 37 per cent of children under the age of five are underweight, 21 per cent are wasted (low weight for height), 39 per cent are stunted, and eight per cent are acutely malnourished.

It was also found, that as compared to urban India, which stood at 29 per cent, malnutrition in rural areas was 38 per cent. As emergency medical service providers, we have seen cases of infant malnutrition rise significantly over the years. Despite statistics, as a country, we have not been able to employ even simple methods to identify such cases. These alarming findings have strongly advocated the need for India to frame healthcare policies with a focus on reducing social and health inequities.

One of the most efficient methods, which is used all over the world, is that of a measuring tape. The Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape, is a simple and quick method used to determine whether a child is malnourished or not, and works using a three colour system. A measurement in the green zone indicates a child is properly nourished, while yellow means he is at risk of malnourishment, and red indicates an acute case of the condition.

The MUAC can be used on children aged one year and going up to five. This method of identifying cases of malnutrition is not only effective, but also easy to use. All a medical professional or assistant needs to do is simply determine the mid-point between the elbow and the shoulder of the left arm, and place the tape around it and record the measurement.

In a country like India, where 60 per cent of the total rural population lives below the poverty line, a significant portion of infants are susceptible to malnutrition. And given the magnitude of people who do not have access to basic healthcare, employing the MUAC tape can make all the difference in identifying and treating cases of malnutrition. With the increase of Mobile Medical Units in rural India, these tapes can be used by paramedics as a tool during community outreaches, health camps, and even as part of anganwadis. By using such methods of identifying cases of malnutrition, it can serve as an understanding of the on-ground reality and become an opportunity for providing the Government with vital statistics to work towards providing solutions.

The Global Nutrition Report 2017 has called for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, raise educational standards, tackle climate change and fight disease. The onus is now on us, to work along with the Government to not only identify cases of malnutrition, but also eradicate it.

The writer is Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Ziqitza Healthcare Limited

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