A latest national level health survey has brought out a shocking fact that over 80% of population in Madhya Pradesh, UP, Rajasthan and Bihar are under the grip of anaemia.
Anaemia, a condition caused by decreased haemoglobin levels or poor count of red blood cells, impairs the capacity of blood to circulate oxygen, affects overall health and increases mortality risk for susceptible population like pregnant women and children.
Experts have blamed increasing imbalance in dietary pattern - due to poverty and junk food fad - for the situation.
Examples of adverse impact of anaemia are not lacking. Rekha, 28, a Saharia tribal woman from Tiktoli village in Sheopur district succumbed during child birth in May this year. Two months later, her baby girl died.
Though her poor and illiterate family cannot ascertain the cause of her death, the symptoms they narrate points at Rekha being anaemic. “She was thin, had pale skin and nails, and would often feel dizziness,” Surjeg Saharia, her husband, says.
Experts say apart from maternal and child deaths, anaemia also leads to overall health deterioration, poor energy and concentration levels and thus, decreased capacity to study and work.
The recently released Clinical, Anthropometric and Biochemical Survey 2014 under the Annual Health Survey (AHS) shows that in MP, 76.3% children below age of five years, 85% children in the 5-9 age group, 82.4% adolescents in the 10-17 age bracket, 84.15% people in the 18-59 age group and 86.2% population over 60 years of age are anaemic.
Similar or higher percentage of anaemia has been reported in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.
This is the first national level survey to bring out the anaemia levels in population of all age groups. Before this, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 of 2005-06 had reported on anaemia levels for children below 5 years and women in 18-49 (fertile) age bracket.
“It is certainly a very high percentage and I think it is mostly related to the food quality that we consume,” Vandana Prasad, New Delhi based paediatrician and nutrition expert told HT.
She mentions that National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) surveys show that almost 60% of the calorie intake of Indians comes from cereals that provide only carbohydrates and fats.
“There is little consumption of food that supply micronutrients - like fruits, vegetables or non-vegetarian food. We are consuming empty calories and it is messing up with our health,” she said.
Sachin Jain, another nutrition expert, said cheap, packaged junk food has made inroads into rural and remote areas and the consumption of traditional healthy food is decreasing rapidly.
Gynaecologist Meenakshi Patel said anaemia was one of the common causes of maternal deaths and poor nutrition was a big reason.
Principal Secretary of MP health department, Gauri Singh said, “We run anaemia control programmes with focus on adolescent girls and pregnant, lactating women but a general awareness on healthy diet is necessary.”
She added that a pilot project to introduce extra fortified salt with iron and folic acid inputs was under consideration.