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33 lakh stunted kids in MP; strong media role in nutrition discourse necessary

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Senior Correspondent

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh has one of the worst health and nutrition indices in the country, highlighted by the fact that it houses 33 lakh stunted children – 7% of all stunted children (4.6 crore) in India. Therefore, it is important that media plays a very strong role in forwarding discourse on health and nutrition in Madhya Pradesh through strong data and evidence based reporting, experts said at a media session in Bhopal.

The discussion session was organized by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) with media advocacy organization Vikas Samvad.

The session started with sharing of the data and underlying key messages of India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 in context of Madhya Pradesh by Moutushi Majumder and Neha Raykar of PHFI. The report inculcates data from various sources including the National Family Health Surveys (NHFS), the Rapid Survey on Children, Annual Health Survey, Census of India and so on.

media workshop

The main focus was on data on stunting (height for age less than normal) among children, as it is evidence of chronic, acute malnutrition. The latest data is of NHFS-4, which shows that over 42% kids in MP are stunted. The reason is not only inadequate diet, but composite factors like health services, sanitation, clean drinking water, health of women and adolescents, status of women in society, their education level, age of marriage, breastfeeding practices and so on.

Anil Gulati and Deepika Sharma of UNICEF office of MP, translated the data into clearer perspective, saying that about 45% of all child death could be attributed directly or indirectly to malnutrition and of the 4.6 crore stunted children in India, 33 lakh are in MP.

This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by editor-in-chief of Sravani Sarkar. Senior journalists Rakesh Diwan, Brajesh Rajput and Pankaj Shukla were participants. The panelists highlighted the opportunities and challenges for media persons in context of covering health and nutrition issues. They however were univocal that if journalists tackle the issues sensitively and in detailed manner, they can bring about perceptive changes.

They also highlighted that while data and incidents were being reported in MP, the need is to shift focus on governance and convergence issues. It was important that transparent, decentralised planning for nutrition and health issues was done and that all departments connected to the issues were brought together to tackle the issue.

The session was coordinated by Kavita Chouhan of PHFI. Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad made the introductory remarks while Rakesh Malviya proposed vote of thanks.