Rethinking policy perspectives on childhood stunting: time to formulate a structural and multifactorial strategy

S V Subramanian, Iván Mejía-Guevara and Aditi Krishna

Stunting and chronic undernutrition among children in South Asia remain a major unresolved global health issue. There are compelling intrinsic and moral reasons to ensure that children attain their optimal growth potential facilitated via promotion of healthy living conditions. Investments in efforts to ensure that children’s growth is not faltered also have substantial instrumental benefits in terms of cognitive and economic development. Using the case of India, we critique three prevailing approaches to reducing undernutrition among children: an over-reliance on macroeconomic growth as a potent policy instrument, a disproportionate focus on interpreting undernutrition as a demand-side problem and an over-reliance on unintegrated single-factorial (one at a time) approaches to policy and research. Using existing evidence, we develop a case for support-led policy approach with a focus on integrated and structural factors to addressing the problem of undernutrition among children in India.

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