India’s plan to establish growth standards tailored to the nation for kids to assess their nutritional status is probably not going to happen for a few more years.
The Print has reported that following orders from the Union health ministry, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) established a panel last year to create growth standards specific to India. The panel was formed out of concerns that the current weight and height references used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) were inappropriate for use in the Indian context.
However, as government sources told the media house, the Centre has now decided that this committee will instead commission a local study of kids between the ages of 0 and 2 to evaluate their growth patterns.
A cross-sectional study is being planned for children older than two years old, which will analyse population-level data from communities.
This might cause the country’s plan to introduce local standards to be delayed by a few years.
Paediatricians measure each child’s height and weight starting at birth and then convert the results into percentiles to determine if the child is developing normally and meeting growth targets on schedule.
In addition to weight and height, these measurements at the population level also include body mass index (BMI) and weight for height. These metrics are essential for determining how well-nourished children are in surveys like the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) and National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
“Comparing Indian babies with WHO references puts an unnecessary burden on mothers and families, and in older children, it raises the risk of unnecessary investigations which increases the cost of healthcare,” Pune-based paediatrician and child growth researcher Dr Anuradha Khadilkar was quoted as saying by the media house.
However, Dr Ramesh Kumar, a senior member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), believes that a prospective study could be a cumbersome process that would need many layers of data validation.