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Risk Factors of Malnutrition in India, Research Paper Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2092

Research Paper

The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center website (hopkinschildren.org) defines malnutrition as “the condition that develops when the body is deprived of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.” The website also explains how malnutrition negatively affects children such as stunting their growth or causing them to appear thin and frail. Their abdomens can become bloated and their immune systems weakened. They may also have other physical symptoms such as bruising, dry skin, thinning hair, joint pain, bleeding gums and a swollen tongue. Physiologically, children may be listless and have body system and organ malfunctions and problems with the functioning of their sight, taste and smell senses. Psychiatrically, they may experience mood swings and anxiety.

Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries

According to research studies, in developing countries, child malnutrition and its risks factors are still prevalent (Smith & Haddad, 1999). The results of the study show that undernourished children under the age of five, in developing countries, was slightly over 46 percent in 1970; however, this statistic dropped to 31 percent by 1995. This shows a significant number of children in developing countries still suffering from malnutrition.

As it relates to current trends in child malnutrition in developing countries, the study reports that “Even under the most optimistic of the scenarios, the developing-country prevalence of child malnutrition is expected to be 15 percent in 2020…” (Smith & Haddad, 1999, p. 83). According to 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics from the World Hunger Education Service website, there were more than 925 million hungry people in the world in 2010, with 906 million of those people living in developing countries, with 578 million of the 906 million living in Asia and the Pacific. Out of the 578 million hungry people in Asia and the Pacific, 70 percent were malnourished children, and out of the 70 percent malnourished children in Asia and the Pacific, the highest number of child malnutrition cases were in India (Asian Human Rights Commission, 2010).

Child Malnutrition Risk Factors in India

According to an article in The New York Times by Yardley (2012), a study by the Naandi Foundation on 100 districts in India shows that 42 percent of the children under 5 years old in those districts are malnourished. The article states that this statistic is in light of increased economic growth in the country and is an unacceptable occurrence. Additionally, India has had problems with hunger and poverty for the last decade; however, there has been approximately a 20 percent decrease in malnutrition (Yardley, 2012).

Of significant concern is low weight in children under the age of five. Being underweight is a significant risk factor for malnutrition for children.  According to Farid-ul-Hasnain & Sophie (2010), more than 50 percent of the world’s underweight children are in just three countries and one of these is India. Risk factors for child malnutrition prevalence include inadequate diet, low socioeconomic status, and maternal education (Farid-ul-Hasnain & Sophie, 2010).

Inadequate Diet

Jeyaseelan & Lakshman (1997) report that besides infection, malnutrition is a leading cause of death among children in South India. Additionally, it is noted that growth and development issues for children in India lead to malnutrition and is due, in large part, to inadequate protein energy intake. Children are more adversely affected by the affects of starvation because their bodies are still developing. When their bodies do not get enough nutrients to meet their bodies’ demands, the starvation process occurs. Because of low socioeconomic status, many households in India lack access to nutritious foods for their children which puts them at risk for being malnourished.

Low Socio-Economic Status

Christian, Abbi, Gujral, & Gopaldas (n.d.) report on how poverty among mothers in India contributes to the malnourishment of their children. There are some women who have husbands who earn higher incomes, and this gives them better access to healthcare. However, there are many families who are impoverished and cannot afford food. This is a significant risk for their children to become malnourished.

Maternal Education

The role of a mother is that of a provider and caregiver for her children and is likely the most influential in her children’s healthcare and nutritional status. The level of care she provides for the children is significantly influenced by the extent of her knowledge about healthcare, specifically in the area of nutrition. Christian, Abbi, Gujral, & Gopaldas (n.d.) suggest that a mother’s child-care practices depend, largely, on her educational status. The reason for this is further explained as a proposition that educated mothers have an advantage concerning this issue, because they are more likely to be more assertive and seek out healthcare services earlier than uneducated mothers.

A study reported on by Moestue & Huttley (2008), on maternal literacy and malnutrition in India, shows that child nutrition is, in some part, proportionally related to adult caregivers’ educational status, particularly the mother’s. The study measured results for a cross-section analysis of height-for-age and weight-for-age data of 5,692 children. Results showed a need for a wider focus on nutrition education programs relating to mothers and children. Moestue & Huttley (2008) also report that studies show that “education is viewed as a key element in the overall strategy for reducing malnutrition in the developing world.” (p. 153). The studies also show the positive effects of female or maternal education on the condition of child health and nutrition, particularly in India. This positive effect of maternal education significantly decreases child malnutrition and death. The reason behind this is because children typically spend more time with their mothers than any other family member. Consequently, children are more exposed to their mothers’ way of doing things.

Another study conducted in rural Nepal, reported on by Joshi (1994), highlights how maternal education affects maternal behavior, specifically as it relates to child health. It is reported that a decline in child mortality risks is proportionately related to the positive health status of children of educated mothers. Joshi (1994) reports that “studies suggest that women acquire behavioral dispositions in school that then lead to two proximate changes in health-care behavior: use of medical services; and changes in household health behavior” (Joshi, 1994, p. 2). Basically, this equates to women taking every advantage of what they learn in school about healthcare and applying it to real-life situations such as with the case of nutritional health for their children. The reason for this is explained as educating women and increasing their literacy is a way of giving them a better outlook about healthcare. This includes them being more knowledgeable about healthcare in the world outside of their immediate environments, and this helps them understand the importance of healthcare for their children better than less educated women understand it (Joshi, 1994).

The data from the above studies show a significant connection between maternal literacy and the condition of children’s nutritional statuses in India. Additionally, study results revealed that the daily nutrient intake of children was higher if their mothers were more educated, and nutrient intakes were lower with mothers with little or no education. It is significant to note that income level was also proportionately related to maternal literacy and maternal nutrition knowledge (Joshi, 1994).

Conclusion

It is apparent that effective means of decreasing the malnutrition problem in children in India is finding ways to help the people of India improve their economic status and increasing the knowledge of the mothers in India. This will effectively contribute to improving nutritional statuses of the children in the country. Yardley (2012) reports that the Prime Minister of India feels the rate of the decrease in child malnutrition shown in recent trends is not enough and is focusing on educating mothers on malnutrition-related issues and says that the healthy future of India depends on eliminating malnutrition in its children. This type of educational intervention is needed to impact the level of complexity in dealing with this important issue. Additionally, there needs to be more improvement in nutritional programs in India as a way to improve nutrition in the country now and into the future.

References

Anoop, S., Saravanan, B., Joseph, A., Cherian, A., & Jacob, K.S. (2004). Maternal depression and low maternal intelligence as risk factors for malnutrition in children: a community based case-control study from South India. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 89(4). Retrieved November 6, 2012 from http://adc.bmj.com/content/89/4/325.full#cited-by

Asian Human Rights Commission (2010). Asia: Enjoyment of the right to food requires a shift from short term and discriminatory practices. Ethics in Action, (4)1.

Retrieved from http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/journals-agazines/eia/eiav4a1/8-asia-enjoyment-of-the-right-to-food-requires-a

Christian, P., Abbi, R., Gujral, S., & Gopaldas, T. (n.d.). The role of maternal literacy and nutrition knowledge in determining children’s nutritional status. United Nations University website. Retrieved November 6, 2012 from http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F104e/8F104E06.htm

Farid-ul-Hasnain, S. & Sophie, R. (2010). Prevalence and risk factors for Stunting among children under 5 years: a community based study from Jhangara town, Dadu Sindh. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association.

Jeyaseelan, L. & Lakshman, M. (1997). Risk Factors for Malnutrition in South Indian Children. Journal of Biosocial ScienceJournal of Biosocial Science,29(1), pp 93-100.

Joshi, A.R. (1994). Maternal schooling and child health: preliminary analysis of the intervening mechanisms in rural Nepal. Health Transition Review, 4(1), pp. 1-28.

Malnutrition. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Children’s Center website. Retrieved from http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Malnutrition.aspx

Moestue, H. & Huttly, S. (2008). Adult education and child nutrition: the role of family and community. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62(2), pp. 153-159.

Smith, L.C. & Haddad, L. (1999). Explaining Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries: A Cross-Country Analysis. International Food Policy Research Institute.

Yardley, J. (2012). Malnutrition Widespread in Indian Children. The New York Times online. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/world/asia/malnutrition-in-india-is-widespread-report-finds.html?_r=0

World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics (2012). World Hunger Education Service. Retrieved November 8, 2012 from http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm

Annotated Bibliography

Anoop, S., Saravanan, B., Joseph, A., Cherian, A., & Jacob, K.S. (2004). Maternal depression and low maternal intelligence as risk factors for malnutrition in children: a community based case-control study from South India. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 89(4). Retrieved November 6, 2012 from http://adc.bmj.com/content/89/4/325.full#cited-by

In this work, the researchers’ goal was to ascertain if risks factors for malnutrition of children in India include negative maternal issues such as depression and illiteracy. Their method of research included evaluating a control group of children by matching age, gender and home environment. Findings concluded that a significant percentage of malnutrition cases in the children were directly associated with maternal depression and low maternal intelligence.

Christian, P., Abbi, R., Gujral, S., & Gopaldas, T. (n.d.). The role of maternal literacy and nutrition knowledge in determining children’s nutritional status. United Nations University website. Retrieved November 6, 2012 from http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F104e/8F104E06.htm

This research piece analyzes whether or not child mortality in India is attributed to the education of the mothers. The study evaluated a group of mothers in India and concluded that, although most all of the test sample of mothers was somewhat illiterate, those with the most education had children with less incidences of malnutrition. The study also showed that the more highly educated mothers had a tendency to be better off financially.

Joshi, A.R. (1994). Maternal schooling and child health: preliminary analysis of the intervening mechanisms in rural Nepal. Health Transition Review, 4(1), pp. 1-28.

This research focuses on how maternal education affects maternal behavior and shows evidence that child mortality risks in India associated with malnutrition decrease as more mothers are educated, particularly when they are educated about the disease. As this relates to maternal change in behavior, it means that the more the mothers learned the more they were apt to take advantage of preventative measures and take their children to see the doctor. This helped them understand the importance of healthcare.

Moestue, H. & Huttly, S. (2008). Adult education and child nutrition: the role of family and community. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62(2), pp. 153-159.

This research studied a representative number of children in India based on them being underweight due to malnutrition.  Findings reported showed that the malnutrition problem is related to the education of the adult caregivers in the children’s homes, particularly the mothers. Results showed that higher maternal education affected the incidences of malnutrition in a positive way and was instrumental in decreasing child malnutrition, mainly because the child spent more time with their mothers than anyone else.

Yardley, J. (2012). Malnutrition Widespread in Indian Children. The New York Times online. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/world/asia/malnutrition-in-india-is-widespread-report-finds.html?_r=0

This is an article in the New York Times that reports on the ongoing issue of child malnutrition in India. Findings of a study done on 100 districts in India show a significant percentage of Indian children, under the age of 5, suffer from malnutrition. The article states this is still true even with positive economic growth in the country in the last decade. Focus is on eliminating child malnutrition in the country to preserve the country’s future.

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