Malnutrition in India, particularly among women, children and adolescents is an emergency needing immediate attention if the country has to have inclusive growth and development. Health portfolio tends to concentrate on infectious diseases (vaccination, oral rehydration, treatment of infections), and noncommunicable diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Important as these are, nutrition cannot be subsumed under these. Nutrition has to be the basis of judging national development. Without good nutrition, neither communicable nor non-communicable diseases can be controlled. Malnutrition is the worst form of noncommunicable disease and is an important risk factor for chronic diseases at a later date. Maternal malnutrition has multigenerational adverse effects on human health and development.
Nutrition Security implies ‘Physical, economic and social access to balanced diet, clean drinking water, safe environment, and health care’. Nutrition literacy and leadership at all levels is needed to understand and act. After 66years of independence, India has among the highest incidence of under-nutrition in the world. Almost 50% of children under 5 are under weight (weight for age) and stunted (height for age). Over 30% of adults are also undernourished. Besides deficiency of calories and protein, deficiency of micronutrients (MN) (vitamins and minerals) is rampant. MN deficiency is referred to as the hidden hunger since often times it is not an obvious killer or crippler, but extracts heavy human and economic cost. Though anthropometric deficits are attributed to protein calorie malnutrition, MN deficiencies contribute significantly, because MNs are needed for utilization of proteins and calories and to fight infections from a young age.