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Importance of Nutritional Counselling- Lessons from Bemetara

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In a world where complexity often overshadows simplicity, it’s a refreshing perspective that simplicity can indeed be the pinnacle of sophistication. Often, the simplest strategies, although not always the easiest to implement, end up being the most effective. Counselling individuals on proper dietary habits and subsequently monitoring their progress has emerged as an impactful intervention in addressing malnutrition.

This topic of “Importance of Nutritional Counselling- Lessons from Bemetara” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Government Initiatives for Food Security

  • Public Distribution System (PDS): Continuous improvements have been made to ensure every individual receives their monthly ration.
  • Mid-day meals in schools: Ensures children are fed nutritious meals during school hours.
  • Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyaan:
    • Mothers and children receive ready-to-eat packets and hot meals at Anganwadi Centres (AWCs).
    • Additional supplements like eggs, bananas, protein powders, peanut chikki, and jaggery are distributed, with state-specific schemes supplementing these efforts. For instance, Chhattisgarh has introduced the Mukhyamantri Suposhan Yojana.

However, despite such robust systems in place, the dream of nutritional security remains elusive. The gap between access to food and proper nutritional intake is evident, often exacerbated by myths surrounding food and the accessibility of highly processed foods.

Need for Nutrition Counselling

  • Myth-busting: Many people have misconceptions about what constitutes a healthy diet.
  • Processed food: Increased availability of highly processed foods often leads people astray from nutritional diets.
  • Jan Andolan & POSHAN Abhiyaan: While initiatives such as “Jan Andolan” have been implemented under POSHAN Abhiyaan, nutrition counselling has not been uniformly adopted across all states.
  • Training & Implementation: According to the POSHAN Abhiyaan Progress Report of 2018, for the mission to progress, there is a critical need for an effective Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) Action Plan. This includes ensuring that field staff are adequately trained in nutritional counselling.

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Case Study: Lessons from Bemetara

  • Context: Bemetara, in Chhattisgarh, is agriculturally affluent and not affected by Naxalite disturbances. However, its malnutrition figures are surprisingly high.
  • Nutrition Counselling in Bemetara: Due to the challenge of addressing malnutrition, the “Potth Laika Abhiyaan” (or Healthy Child Mission) was implemented in 72 critical AWCs.
    • Training: Ground staff received training on nutrition counselling.
    • Methods: Parents of malnourished children received weekly counselling on dietary habits in the local language. They were educated about balanced diets and other healthy practices, and myths were addressed and debunked.
    • Monitoring: Regular checks were made, involving local community leaders and door-to-door visits.

Encouraging Outcomes

  • Results of Potth Laika Abhiyaan: Within nine months (December 2022 to July 2023), 53.77% of targeted children emerged out of malnutrition.
  • Comparison with Control Group: In contrast, areas without this mission saw only a 30.6% improvement, proving the efficacy of the counselling approach.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Unlike food distribution schemes that can be expensive and prone to leakages, this mission is cost-effective, primarily requiring training sessions and monitoring.

Way Forward

Considering the significant success observed in Bemetara through Potth Laika Abhiyaan, this model should be replicated on a broader scale across districts and states. Nutritional counselling and regular monitoring should complement food provision efforts to ensure comprehensive growth and nutritional well-being.

Conclusion

A balanced approach that couples food distribution with nutritional education and consistent monitoring is the way forward for India. Adhering to this straightforward yet potent strategy can bring the nation closer to the noble goal of a “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat” or Malnutrition-free India.

Practice Question for Mains

Explain the role of nutritional counselling in tackling malnutrition in India. (250 words)

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