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Could Eat Right India be India’s dietary salvation?

A report published in The Lancet has claimed that one in five deaths globally can trace its roots to poor nutrition. As stated by the report, “we are living in a time when the poor diet is a leading cause of thousands of deaths in India annually.” Could the Eat Right Movement be a means of combating this?

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Ease of access to sugary drinks and food has had a detrimental effect on India’s dietary health

Indeed, malnutrition was responsible for almost seventy percent of child deaths in India in 2017. Such a figure places malnutrition firmly into the top spot as India’s most prominent cause of infant mortality.

Conditions caused by malnutrition affect significant numbers of children. According to recent figures by the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS), stunting affected 35 percent of children under five in India and wasting affected seventeen percent. 33 percent of children are underweight, including 35 percent of children aged five to nine years; ten percent being severely underweight.

In response to the rise in deaths attributed to malnutrition — as well as a major shift in death toll from infectious disease to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) — the Government of India launched the Eat Right Movement. As reported by Health Issues India at the time, the movement was influenced by the India State-level Disease Burden report, which noted “dietary risks, which include diets low in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, but high in salt and fat, were India’s third leading risk factor for health loss in 2016.”

The Eat Right Movement aims to utilise social media and mass media platforms such as television and radio, as well as using information pamphlets in order to effectively target both the urban and rural population. The information delivered is aiming to bring awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and the risks a diet high in trans fat and salt can bring.

India currently shares a complicated relationship with food. A dual burden of malnutrition has arisen, with both undernourishment and obesity presenting issues. Though obesity is often considered exclusive of malnutrition, this is a misconception. A person may be malnourished through being severely underweight, or they may be overweight through excess calorie consumption and still be considered malnourished due to various nutrient deficiencies — arising from the consumption of unhealthy, processed food while foregoing fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables.

The Eat Right Movement aims to tackle both of these issues. This, combined with exercise programmes such as the ‘Fit India’ movement, could have a major impact on health within India. NCDs are India’s predominant causes of death. Malnutrition takes the most prominent position as India’s most common cause of death in children. Assuring diets across the nation are healthy could eliminate a major risk factor of NCDs, as well as notably improving the health of children – with the potential to reduce child mortality by a considerable margin. 

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