The “ Poshan Maah” initiative, and the nutrition push by the PM is much needed. Malnutrition is at the root of India’s problems, whether they be economic, social, or human.The poor nutritional status of women (among other things) has ensured that about 40% of the children in India are mentally and physically stunted. About 50% of India’s adult population is mentally stunted due to the same reason (stunting due to malnutrition in early childhood).
In the face of these staggering numbers, any hopes of a “demographic dividend” is a mere pipe dream.
When such a large portion of our population is not capable of being economically productive, educated, or skilled beyond an elementary level, how can we hope to grow and benefit all our people?
Adult malnutrition is becoming an equally alarming problem. India is now the diabetes capital of the world, and rates of heart disease, cancer and other lifestyle diseases are skyrocketing. Adult malnutrition is at the root of this problem. Abdominal obesity, poor muscular development, micronutrient deficiencies, and more, are ubiquitous. I believe that over 90% of our population suffers from macronutrient imbalances and micronutrient deficiencies.
The PM’s initiative is welcome because our people will not continue to be in denial about the scale of the malnutrition problem. This message, and push, from the head of the Government, helps to give top-of-mind importance to nutrition.
However, the messaging of the various public and private sector stakeholders in this nutrition campaign is flawed and will be ineffective. In some cases, it will cause damage.
We need a far simpler message, focused simply on the two big things, namely, protein adequacy and micronutrient diversity and adequacy. For this, we must stop talking about “balanced diets”, “food pyramids”, and recipes.
The message must be more straightforward; More pulses, dairy, fish, meat, eggs. More green leafy veggies. Less grain, sugar and potatoes. Just these three messages will focus the campaign on actionable elements and, except for the protein, take away focus from expensive things that most people can not afford.
Talking about lots of vegetables and fruit makes no sense – most people can’t afford them. But green leafy veggies are different as there are many Indian edible plants, and they are inexpensive.
Protein adequacy remains a problem that needs a solution. Unfortunately, there are no inexpensive sources of protein. There are some technology-driven, large scale, affordable solutions to this problem. But nothing that’s available to the masses already.
Here is an article on the PM’s Campaign – https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-narendra-modi-urges-people-to-support-nutrition-campaign-2093993?publisher=newsstand