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Men weaker than women in India

Ever wondered why we Indians do badly in contact sports? Well, the cat is out of the bag for the first time in 20 years. Aditya Ghosh reports.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 17:53 IST

Ever wondered why we Indians do badly in contact sports?

Well, the cat is out of the bag for the first time after two decades revealing the overall health conditions of Indian men and initial indicators are quite disturbing. Almost one-fourth of them are malnourished, have a lower body mass index (BMI) and suffer from anaemia.

National Family Health Survey — after focusing for past 15 years on reproductive and child health since its inception in 1992-93 — mapped men’s health in NFHS III this year. The Indian Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS) executes the survey, under the aegis of Government of India, Ministry of Health. The last round of NFHS was conducted in 1998-99.

Though the condition of women continues to be a major cause of concern which has not seen too much improvement in past seven years when the NFHS II was conducted, the male health data is almost equally worrisome.

And it is not in rural areas that men are malnourished. Against popular belief, the health of adult men in metros seems poorer than in the rural parts of the country. Chennai and Kolkata have more men than women with lower body mass index (BMI) while Mumbai has equal number of underweight men and women. Delhi also has almost equal number of women and men with lower body mass index.

Mumbai’s percentage of underweight adult male and female is at 15.4 per cent of the total population, Chennai has 12.2 per underweight adult males cent against 9.5 females with lower BMIs. Kolkata’s malnourished males comprise 14.1 per cent of the population against 12 per cent women who are underweight. Only Delhi fares slightly better with 10.4 per cent men with a lower BMI, compared to 10.6 women in the same category.

The idea of mapping men’s health was introduced last year before the survey was commissioned thrown light for the first time on what has largely remained underreported but was still a cause of major concern, claimed Dr Sulbha Parasuraman, the principal investigator from IIPS who was in-charge of NFHS III.

"There was no previous data against which we could compare how men’s health have been in the country. But from this year’s data, the initial markers do not reveal a very happy situation on the ground, particularly in the cities,” she said.

Reproductive and child health have always been the focus in the country’s health policy which needed a review now, claimed experts. "The government policy never included men’s health issues and concerns as the priority was, quite rightly, always reproductive and child health. Though they continue to be the main focus, policies need to evolve to address for men’s health issues also, particularly nutritional status," said Dr P Arokiasamy of IIPS, another NFHS investigator.

The time has come to incorporate men’s health issues in the national health policies, an issue which even the World Health Organiation (WHO) has urged the country to address. Thus, data have also been done about specific areas like health habits and status, lifestyle diseases, diabetes and other general health conditions of Indian male, which is in the process of final tabulation. "A clearer picture will emerge after these data are published," said Parashuraman.