A major analysis claims that two in five eligible children in India are missing out on preventive vitamin A supplementation with large number of ‘cold spots’ in provision across the country, and wide variations in coverage within and among states.
VITAMIN A; DATA
The representative survey data published in the open access journal BMJ Global Healthnoted that overall coverage was 60.5 per cent, which was low compared with that of most other South Asian countries. It noted that the coverage ranged from 29.5 per cent (Nagaland) to 89.5 per cent (Goa) across the various states/union territories.
Among districts, coverage ranged from just under 13 per cent (Longleng district, Nagaland) to 94.5 per cent (Kolar district, Karnataka). The report mentions about distinct geographical hotspots and coldspots.
In the paper, the authors note that seventy one out of the 640 districts (11 percent) achieved coverage above 80 per cent. However, 13 districts only had a coverage of 20 per cent or below: 4 from Nagaland (Longleng, Mon, Phek, and Zunheboto); 3 from Manipur (Ukhrul, Chandel, and Senapati); 3 from Uttar Pradesh (Muzaffarnagar, Bareilly, and Bahraich); 2 from Rajasthan (Dungarpur and Rajsamand); and 1 from Arunachal Pradesh (East Kameng).
They found that low coverage was mostly in areas beset by infrastructure and logistical issues, high levels of disease, and inequitable health service provision. And high coverage was mostly in prosperous areas that generally rank high in health, demographic, socioeconomic and developmental indicators.
VITAMIN A; THE METHOD
The researchers mapped provision by all 640 districts, encompassing each of the 29 states and 7 union territories. The coverage was estimated using information obtained from mothers as to whether their children (204,645) had received vitamin A supplementation within 6 months of the NFHS-4 survey.
The estimated prevalence of vitamin A deficiency was based on serum retinol measurements among the under 5s (9563) during the CNNS.
VITAMIN A; THE NEED
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. Childhood vitamin A deficiency has long been recognised as an important but controllable public health problem in India. since 2006, the government has recommended high dose vitamin A supplements for all children aged 9 to 59 months.
The authors said that thiis was only an observational study, based on survey data, and as such, can’t establish causality.