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The public health challenge of early growth failure in India
Authors: M F Young, and R Martorell
Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67: 496–500; DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.18
Topic(s): Child feeding
Child health
Children under five
Country: Asia
Published: FEB 2013
Abstract: Recent recognition of the early onset and high prevalence of wasting (30%) and stunting (20%) among infants 0–5 months in India draws attention to the need to understand the causes and develop prevention strategies. Such growth failure has dire consequences in the short (increased mortality) and long-term (loss of human capital and increased risk of chronic diseases). Food interventions before 6 months will increase morbidity/mortality through contamination in settings of poor sanitation and hygiene. Waiting to improve nutrition only after the initiation of complementary feeding at 6 months is a missed opportunity and may permanently alter life trajectory and potential. This underscores the importance of maternal nutrition. Iron and folic acid and protein energy supplementation during pregnancy are interventions that can improve maternal nutrition and birth outcomes. Maternal supplementation during lactation should be considered as a means to improve maternal and child outcomes, although the evidence needs strengthening. Support and counseling are also required to improve maternal diets and promote exclusive breastfeeding. Programs focused on improving maternal nutrition across the continuum of preconception, pregnancy and lactation are likely to have the greatest impact as mothers are central gatekeepers to the health and future of their children.