Monday, August 31, 2015
The word malnutrition is synonymous with children along with a vivid disturbing image of their frail bodies. However, malnutrition among girls on the cusp of adulthood is a much neglected problem. The onset of menstruation renders many adolescent girls anaemic and susceptible to a host of problems. Numerous health experts and social organisations feel that a food based strategy could be a sustainable solution to address malnutrition among adolescent girls.
Statistics show that India is home to many anaemic adolescent girls; 56% of India’s 113 million adolescent girls are anaemic. To tackle this issue, Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation highlighted the need for a nutritional intervention in their report titled “Three Square Meals – A Just Diet for India’s Adolescent Girls”.
- Improving access to nutritious food, promoting nutrition-smart preparation and consumption of food and facilitating better absorption of nutrients from the food consumed
- Addressing two challenges in resource poor households – access to a diverse diet and gender equitable distribution of food within the household. To address this issue, an NGO Swayam Shikshan Prayogis is training women in Maharashtra and Gujarat to cultivate nutrient rich vegetables in their agricultural lands to ensure the household is benefitted too.
- When cultivation is difficult, awareness about locally available, inexpensive foods that are rich in nutrients and cooking methods that preserve maximum nutrients in the prepared food could be created.
- Societal norms may prevent adolescent girls from consuming enough nutritious foods. Thus, creating awareness about gender equitable distribution of foods is important.
In addition to these food-based strategies, creating awareness about appropriate behaviours to ensure health in adolescents is equally important. These include identification, prevention and management of anaemia, appropriate and gender-equitable nutrition for adolescent girls, menstrual hygiene management and hygienic sanitation practices.
Malnutrition gets propagated in a trans-generational cycle and this could be broken by intervening during the unique window of opportunity in adolescence. If ignored at the juncture of adolescence, females may have to bear lifelong consequences. The strategies suggested here are inexpensive and easy to implement. Such practical awareness is what needs to be propagated instead of malnutrition!
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