Department of Biochemistry & Nutrition (Government of India), All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Calcutta.
Micronutrient deficiency is a serious public health concern in most developing countries. In India, iron deficiency, vitamin A deficiency, and iodine deficiency disorder are of greatest public health significance. In addition, subclinical zinc deficiency, flourosis, and fluoride-deficient dental caries are important areas of concern. The National Pilot Program on Control of Micronutrient Malnutrition was launched in 1995 to address these problems and the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (Calcutta) was entrusted to coordinate its activities. The program presently covers one northeastern and four eastern states, namely Assam, Bihar (Jharkhand), Orissa, West Bengal, and Tripura. Baseline analyses were conducted on demographic situation, food and nutrient intake pattern, nutritional deficiency diseases (e.g., iron deficiency anemia), iodine deficiency disorder, and vitamin A deficiency. It was observed that except for cereals, the diet was deficient in all other food groups. Nutrient intake (i.e., energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals) was also deficient in almost the entire state. Anthropometric indices (e.g., weight-for-age and height-for-age data) indicated that large percentages of <5-year-old and 6-14-year-old children were in grade II or III malnutrition. Mean dietary zinc intakes in all the surveyed districts were much lower than the RDA. Large percentages of salt samples had iodine levels less than 15 ppm. The point prevalence of anemia in various age groups was found to be high. Bitot's spot was mainly noted in the age group of 6-71 months. Nightblindness was noted in young children as well as the children 24-71 months old. High prevalence of nightblindness in pregnant women is a point of concern. Actions needed to control micronutrient deficiencies include: intervention strategies, extensive nutrition and health education through innovative IEC materials to support problem-specific programs, strengthening of various state government programs and the role of NGOs.
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