Nearly 4 out of every 10 people in India are unfit, in the bigger cities, every second person is unfit, and it is all completely official. The third National Family Health Survey (NFHS) — the Health Ministry’s definitive state-of-the-nation’s-health study — has given India the thumbs-down.
For the first time since it was started in 1992-93, the NFHS expanded its focus beyond traditional concerns like maternal and child health, and collected data on new parameters like obesity, male malnutrition and anaemia. And found that in India, like in many parts of the West, obesity had emerged as the major health issue.
"Data was obtained on obesity and malnutrition for both men and women," said Sulbha Parashuraman, head of the team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), which carried out the study. "Obesity is threatening India," said Philip T James of WHO’s International Obesity Task Force.
The study found Chennai to be India’s most unfit metro, followed by Mumbai. 55.5 per cent of Chennai’s women and 43.8 per cent of its men, and 50 per cent of Mumbai’s women and 40.5 per cent of its men, fell short of a national ‘fitness index’ established by the study.
Delhi came out as India’s fittest city: according to NFHS, only 43.5 per cent of Delhi’s women and 34.4 per cent of its men fall in the ‘unfit’ category. The ‘fitness index’ has been calculated in such a way that both overweight and underweight people are considered ‘unfit’.
According to James, rapid economic growth has led to faster lifestyles and imbalanced diets. "Even those who can, do not eat balanced food," said Daksha Pandit of Sion Hospital.
Taking states as a whole, Meghalaya is India’s fittest: only 20.8 per cent of its women and 16.2 per cent of men are ‘unfit’.