Mumbai: Around 22,114 children in the age group of zero to 18 years suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, 8,137 have obesity problem while severe acute malnutrition was found in 6,051 other kids, revealed the ‘Jagruk Palak, Sudhrudh Balak’ (aware parents, healthy kids) survey carried out by the state health department. The exercise, which started in February, not just focused on children studying in government schools and anganwadis but also accounted for private school kids as well as those who don't go to schools, said a health official.
Unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activities
According to health experts, the increasing cases of vitamin A and obesity among children and even adults are the result of unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activities. Obese kids are more prone to develop non-communicable diseases, they underlined, adding that Covid also played a major role in the rise of obesity cases.
Vitamin A is important for many cellular processes in the human body that are critical for eyesight, growth and development, wound healing, reproduction and immunity, among others. In developing nations, around 35% of children under the age of five years have some form of vitamin A deficiency, which largely goes undiagnosed.
Importance of vitamin A
Pointing out that there are not much talks about the importance of vitamin A as compared to vitamin D, a senior health official said, “The predisposing factors (leading to vitamin A deficiency) are maternal malnutrition, early pregnancies, small gap between pregnancies, intrauterine growth restriction, infant malnutrition, chronic diarrhoea, poor feeding habits, etc.” If left untreated, the deficiency leads to poor growth, chronic infection and night blindness and xerophthalmia (abnormal dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye), the official added.
Speaking on the obesity issue, he said the disorder is a manifestation of what is rapidly changing in our environment while underlining that consumption of junk foods, poor complementary feeding, lack of outdoor activity and increased screen time may be the reason for this worrying trend. The survey has helped to build a huge database which will provide significant insights while planning nutritional programmes for children, the official said.
Currently, the Centre's flagship initiative of POSHAN Abhiyaan focuses on the nutritional needs of pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescent girls, and children under the age of six years.