India Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey

Council researchers  in partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India, are conducting the first Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey to assess the malnutrition burden amongst children and adolescents in India. 

The Issue

Nutrition is central to human development. Childhood and adolescent undernutrition undermines survival, growth and development, and diminishes the strength and resilience of communities and countries around the world. Micronutrient deficiencies are an important cause of morbidity and mortality especially in infants and preschool children. Even mild to moderate micronutrient deficiencies can lead to impaired cognitive development, poor physical growth, increased morbidity and decreased work productivity in adulthood.

Despite India’s economic and agricultural progress, still today, nearly 40 percent children under age five are stunted, and 66 percent (or three in five children) have anemia.  India accounts for more than a third of the of the stunted children in the developing world.  While small-scale studies indicate persistently high micronutrient deficiencies among children and adolescents in India, nationally representative data are not available to date.

The Progress

Population Council researchers are conducting the world’s largest micronutrient survey of children and adolescents to date.  The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) is a nationally representative and comprehensive nutritional survey profiling children and adolescents (ages 0–19) in India to better understand the magnitude of micronutrient deficiencies as well as correlates and risk factors associated with them. Researchers are looking at nutritional status, which is measured by anthropometric data including height and weight, and are collecting biomarkers and data on anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies. The survey includes the under-researched population of children and adolescents between the ages of 5–14 years. It is supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and is a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

The survey is being conducted in 30 states of India, and as the technical partner, Council researchers are monitoring and supervising collection of the data, managing and analyzing it; and working in partnership with recognized experts in nutrition to:

  • guide high-quality technical and ethical survey administration;
  • set indicators and develop relevant tools, manuals and quality assurance mechanisms;
  • build capacities of survey agencies; and monitor collection and collation of survey data in 30 states; and
  • provide state and national-level fact sheets and survey reports for decision-makers.

Data collection for this survey is complete, and analysis of data is ongoing.

The Impact

The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey will yield important findings on malnutrition, anemia and micronutrient deficiencies among children and adolescents in India, including new data on 5–9 year-olds and 10–14 year-olds.  It will also share national data on micronutrients such as vitamin A, iodine, zinc, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Evidence from the analyses of CNNS data will inform the government of India’s ambitious Poshan Abhiyaan, its flagship program to improve nutritional outcomes, and help reorient policies and programs aimed at curbing malnutrition in adolescents. These data will serve as an important national baseline to evaluate the progress of recently launched initiatives.

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