According to the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, approximately half of the women of the reproductive age group are anemic and 41 per cent of preschoolers, 24 per cent of school–age children and 28 per cent of adolescents are reported to be anemic.
The government’s Anemia Mukt Bharat programme has been designed to decrease anemia by three percentage points per year among children, adolescents and reproductive age women between 2018 and 2022.
Iron folic acid tablets and de-worming are its main measures. Drawing attention to the impact of anemia on health of children and women, the experts said that there is a need for intensifying efforts to address all causes of anemia for accelerating decline in anemia prevalence among all age groups in a mission mode using a multi-pronged strategy rather than scattered programme.
“There is evidence that severe anemia also increases perinatal morbidity and mortality by causing intrauterine growth retardation and preterm delivery. Anemia in adolescent girls affects their physical work capacity and reproductive physiology,” he said.
He noted that the two most promising interventions to aid anemia control in the country in the current scenario are use of parenteral (non-oral means of administration) iron for moderate to severe anemia and food fortification. “Parenteral use of iron overcomes the drawback of side effects and compliance and bio availability currently faced by oral iron folic acid. Food fortification is also one of most sustainable solutions to the problem of micronutrient deficiency,” he said.
Sheila Vir, public health nutrition expert and founder director of Public Health Nutrition and Development Centre, said anemia persists primarily due to newborns being born to anemic mothers with low storage of iron which depletes rapidly after six months unless appropriate food is fed to young children from six months onwards, low intake of iron against requirements, worm infestation and malaria in endemic regions and poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
Increasing dietary diversity and enhancing bioavailability of the dietary iron by increasing the enhancers in the diet and reducing the inhibitors, addressing poor sanitation and providing iron through medicinal supplementation can be among measures to control nutritional anemia.
Praven Kumar, the director professor, Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College, said anemia is a serious public health problem in India which can be tackled with better implementation of different components of ‘Anemia Mukt Bharat’.
“Anemia Mukt Bharat has well defined, evidence based interventions. A lot can be achieved with better implementation of different components of AMB,” Kumar said.