Published: 2022-03-25

Nutritional status of Indian pre-school children and WHO nutrition targets for 2025

Kalaivani K., Prema Ramachandran


Background: India has been food secure and has been implementing food supplementation programmes for decades but prevalence of under-nutrition in pre-school children is high. Data from two large scale surveys were analysed to document current nutritional status of pre-school children and assess whether India will be able to achieve the WHO targets by 2025.

Methods: District level household survey 4 and annual health survey (2013-2015) undertook height and weight measurements in pre-school children (DLHS4 74717 and AHS 139157 children). Mean weight, height and BMI-for-age were computed for girls and boys in 0-5 years and compared with WHO MGRS growth standards. Prevalence of stunting, under-weight, wasting, over-nutrition and combined stunting and wasting were computed in each survey in relation to age.

Results: The mean height and weight-for-age in boys and girls during 6-60 months was around the -2SD and mean BMI-for-age was between the mean and -1SD of the WHO standards. Frequency distribution of Z scores for all three indices in Indian children were to the left of the WHO standards. In under-five children stunting rates were highest, wasting rates lower and over-nutrition rates the lowest. Prevalence of stunting increased and wasting decreased with increasing age of the children. Prevalence of under-nutrition was higher in children surveyed in AHS.

Conclusions: It might not be possible to achieve rapid reduction in low birthweight or stunting. It might be possible to achieve the targets for sustained reduction in wasting in some states. Early detection and management of over-nutrition in children can prevent the rise in over-nutrition.


Growth of Indian children, Stunting, Underweight, Wasting, Pre-school children, WHO nutrition goals

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