Govt wants age, weight of children surveyed

NEW DELHI: Stepping up the urgency to check malnutrition, the women and child development (WCD) ministry has asked the Census Commissioner to include `age weight' as a parameter in the annual health survey that is expected to begin in the next few months. The survey will cover 284 districts in nine high burden states to give year-on-year data on crude birth and death rate, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. 

The move assumes significance because the government can expect accurate data on the weight of a child and by consequence the level of nutrition from the most vulnerable districts annually. At present, the only data is from the National Family Heath Survey that provides information every five years and at the state-level. 

The survey will be conducted by the Registrar General of India (RGI), Census Commissioner and the health ministry. A district health profile will be prepared on an annual basis in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. 

WCD minister Krishna Tirath said, "We are very concerned about the high malnutrition rates. The inclusion of age weight for children will serve as a better measure for assessing nutritional levels and improved implementation of schemes.'' 

According to the NFHS-3 (2005-2206), malnutrition levels for children under 3 years is a whopping 40.4%. While malnutrition has come down from NFHS-2 (1998-1999) at 42.7%, other indicators like anemia — a symptom of undernutrition — have shown an increase. Anemia in children has increased from 74.2% to 78.9% and from 51.8% to 56.2% in women for the same period. 

Among the other key indicators that will be part of the survey are crude birth rate, crude death rate, infant mortality rate and other programme indicators useful in effective monitoring of the programmes at the district level. At present, these estimates are available only at the State level.