Karnataka sees rise in number of anaemic kids, women in last five years

Notwithstanding numerous initiatives to provide nutritious food, anaemia continues to be a major health problem among women and children in Karnataka.

Published: 29th November 2021 09:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2021 09:57 AM   |  A+A-

School children, mid-day meal, anaemia

Representational image (File Photo | Vinay Madapu, EPS)

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Notwithstanding numerous initiatives to provide nutritious food, anaemia continues to be a major health problem among women and children in Karnataka. In fact, the numbers went up in the last few years to a high of 48 per cent among women and 66 per cent among children aged 6 to 59 months.

The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 shows an increase of 3 per cent among women and 5 per cent among children, compared to the last NFHS-4 survey in 2015-16. While better access to healthcare facilities could be one of the reasons for the increase in the numbers, it is a serious cause of concern. "In children, it can cause stunting and make them more prone to other infections," said Dr Sylvia Karpagam, public health doctor and researcher.

"It can also affect concentration among children. If it is more predominant among Adivasi and Dalit children, who have already been labelled as slow learners, it can lead to a huge consequence as they cannot concentrate and start with a disadvantage," she said.

As many as 67.1 per cent of rural children are anaemic compared to 62.8 per cent in urban areas. 

Holistic approach needed to treat anaemia: Doctors

Anaemia among women can result in maternal mortality, weakness, diminished physical and mental capacity, increased morbidity from infectious diseases, perinatal mortality, premature delivery, low birth weight and in children it can cause impaired cognitive performance, motor development and scholastic achievement, says NFHS.

While iron deficiency is estimated to be responsible for about half of all anaemia cases globally, it can also be caused by malaria, hookworms and other helminths, other nutritional deficiencies, chronic infections and genetic conditions, the report states.

"We should not follow a single iron deficiency approach and look at nutrition, infection, sanitat ion, educat ion, hygiene and poverty. It has to be a holistic multipronged approach," said Dr Hema Diwakar, Medical Director, Diwakar Speciality Hospital, Bengaluru and Chair, Well Women HealthCare at the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).

The government that was until recently focusing on a singlepronged approach by giving iron and folic acid tablets changed its strategy to a more holistic approach with six interventions under the Anaemia Mukt Bharat initiative, she said.

Explaining its serious consequences, Dr Karpagam said that nutritional anaemia is the biggest cause of postpartum haemorrhage (excessive bleeding occurring within 24 hours of delivery of a baby) and postpartum haemorrhage is the biggest cause of maternal deaths. "It is a preventable cause," she added.

A senior State Health Department official said several programmes are being taken up to improve the health of the population and the programmes are monitored closely. "We are moving slowly, but we are definitely moving forward," said Dr Hema Diwakar.

The NFHS-5 report also showed that obesity has gone up among urban women from 23.3 per cent to 37.1 per cent and interestingly, obesity among rural men has gone up from 22.1 to 25 per cent.

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