Life’s become a tad comfortable for more Indians with electricity, clean cooking fuel, toilets and improved drinking water reaching more homes than before, but improved infrastructure does not find a reflection in improved health.
Life improved a little for women over the past decade, though it still isn’t at par with men, shows data from the fourth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), which is based on a multi-round survey of 601,509 households between January 2015 and December 2016.
Women are still not earning, with around one in four (24.6%) being paid cash over the past one year, down from 28.6% in 2015-06. This makes them dependent on family, even though more of them participate in household decisions than they did a decade ago.
Women’s health has improved, but only marginally. There was a slight fall in the number of women with anaemia — from 55.2% in 2005-06 to 53.1%. The number of underweight women fell by close to 13%, while those who are overweight and obese have risen sharply. With more children being born in hospitals, fewer babies are dying after birth. However, children’s health is not getting better — though the number of underweight children has gone down marginally, stunting has risen over the past decade.
A major reason is malnutrition and infections such as diarrhoea. “Government is improving coverage and access to treatment for pneumococcal diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. The rapid scale-up of childhood vaccines like Rota vaccine and planned pneumococcal vaccine introduction will address the issue of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia and lower child mortality,” said Nachiket Mor, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, India.
One in five women in India is overweight or obese, while one in six men has unhealthy weight.
Tobacco-control policies have bought down consumption. “Policies such as smoke-free rules, 85% graphic warnings and gutka ban helped, but the work is half done,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, chief executive of Voluntary Health Association of India.