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Poshan Maah – A move in the direction of a malnourishment-free India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated Poshan (Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonize Actions for Nutrition in India) Abhiyaan, on 8th March 2018 to ensure malnutrition free India by the year 2022. This ambitious program was built collaboratively by Niti Aayog introducing an ambitious plan, which incorporated seven main components: convergence; technology; grievance redressal; training and capacity building; behavior change, and communication innovations & rewards. The objective of "Poshan Abhiyan" is to considerably reduce birth mass, stunting, wasting, and anemia in children, as well as to boost pregnant and lactating mothers' nutritional status.

On Sunday 30 August 2020, during the monthly radio broadcast programme “Mann ki Baat”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the importance of nutrition & announced to celebrate the September 2020 as “Poshan Maah” or “Nutrition Month”. He said that education and healthy nutrition are important in helping children and students to achieve their full potential and their wellbeing. He emphasized that mothers should receive proper food if children are to be well-nourished. He added that food not only includes just food but also vital nutrients such as salts, vitamins, minerals, etc.

This year there are two major activities for the POSHAN Maah namely:

1- Identification and tracking of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM). The stunting affects a child very often within two years and the harm caused in a long-term way is usually irreparable, which affects the kid's physical, cognitive, and socioeconomic results at an adult's age. Therefore, the emphasis on the first 1000 days represents a commendable move forward.

2- Plantation Drive for Promotion of Kitchen garden under "POSHAN KE LIYE PAUDHE' "पोषण के लिए पौधे" drive at a grassroots level for promotion of kitchen gardens. This is also because homegrown organic fruits and vegetables are important sources of micronutrients & their regular consumption is essential for good health, nutrition & well being. For eg. Regular intake of iron-rich fruits and vegetables will keep iron deficiency anemia at bay and locally grown turmeric and citrus fruits will keep boosting immunity thus keeping viral infections away.

In terms of public nutrition at both global and national levels, the past decade has been exceptional. The effect, however, was less than ideal. That is cynical in particular because our country has an immense public nutrition burden. Even after 74 years of independence, India is with the highest rates of domestic inequalities in malnutrition. According to the Global Nutrition Report 2020, In India 37.9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively. National Health & Family Survey results, the United Nations International Children's Fund, and the WHO have pointed out that there are alarmingly high levels of malnutrition among children, teenage girls, pregnant and lactating women in India. Also, obesity in children is increasingly growing, with resistance to insulin, blood pressure, etc. much before then in other countries. Moreover, numerous deficiencies in micronutrients exist widely in all parts of society. Studies show that poor maternal nutrition predisposes the offspring to the early development of many non-conveyable diseases particularly during the first 1000 days (conception of the 2nd birthday of the child).

The lack of a coordinated solution to malnutrition in all its forms makes all these lacunae in our public nutritional scenario worse. There are plenty of issues, but we should collectively focus mainly on what can be done at the highest leadership level.

Therefore, more programs and schemes must be introduced to raise awareness among women, especially in rural areas, who play an essential role in achieving the government's objective.

While the work at POSHAN Maah focuses on educating communities on proper nutrition, it also enables women and kids to have better access to nutrition education and to provide guidance on micronutrients to the community to battle hidden hunger through unique strategies, such as technology-based real-time tracking and food environment strengthening.

POSHAN Maah is not just an observance, but a “Jan Andolan”, meaning a 'people movement. To give momentum to this initiative starting 1st Sept., Hexagon Nutrition kick starts poshan maah by collaborating with IHW council to celebrate the Virtual Bharat Nutrition Week, It is bringing together the relevant Ministries, Health Secretaries, Government & Private Health & Agriculture Institutions, Policymakers to share the best practices, technology and provide solutions to the India’s malnutrition problems, create awareness among low & middle income groups to fight against under nutrition.

The entire 'Poshan maah' Hexagon Nutrition has partnered with other stakeholders, as a strong supporter of food and nutrition welfare. It is engaged in a number of activies to spread nutrition education and create awareness on the importance of food diversity, micronutrients and fortification. We urge you to connect with us on Facebook & Linkedin to join the movement.

References:

[1] The 2020 Global Nutrition Report

[2] Malnutrition in India: status and government initiatives, J Public Health Policy,2019 Mar;40(1):126-141.doi: 10.1057/s41271-018-0149-5.

[3] Tracking progress on Maternal & Child Nutrition – A survival and developmental priority, UNICEF

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