Estimating the cost of delivering direct nutrition interventions at scale: national and subnational level insights from India

Purnima Menon, Christine M. McDonald and Suman Chakrabartil

India’s national nutrition and health programmes are largely designed to provide evidence-based nutrition specific interventions, but intervention coverage is low due to a combination of implementation challenges, capacity and financing gaps. Global cost estimates for nutrition are available but national and subnational costs are not. We estimated national and subnational costs of delivering recommended nutrition-specific interventions using the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) costing approach. We compared costs of delivering the SUN interventions at 100% scale with those of nationally recommended interventions. Target populations (TP) for interventions were estimated using national population and nutrition data. Unit costs (UC) were derived from programmatic data. The cost of delivering an intervention at 100% coverage was calculated as (UC*projected TP). Cost estimates varied; estimates for SUN interventions were lower than estimates for nationally recommended interventions because of differences in choice of intervention, target group or unit cost. US$5.9bn/year are required to deliver a set of nationally recommended nutrition interventions at scale in India, while US$4.2bn are required for the SUN interventions. Cash transfers (49%) and food supplements (40%) contribute most to costs of nationally recommended interventions, while food supplements to prevent and treat malnutrition contribute most to the SUN costs. We conclude that although such costing is useful to generate broad estimates, there is an urgent need for further costing studies on the true unit costs of the delivery of nutrition-specific interventions in different local contexts to be able to project accurate national and subnational budgets for nutrition in India.

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