Vulnerability to Chronic Energy Deficiency: An Empirical Analysis of Women in Uttar Pradesh, India

Maithili Ramachandran, K.S. Kavi Kumar, Brinda Viswanathan
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Prevalence rate of chronic energy deficiency (CED) is used as a measure of (adult) nutrition and health status for any region or country. That these rates in India have been rather high particularly for women is a matter of concern. As Floud (1992) and Fogel (1997) have shown, among several anthropometric measures weight-for-height or Body Mass Index (BMI) is an effective predictor of morbidity and mortality rates. BMI is shown to indicate the current nutritional status thereby reflecting the difference between food intake and the demand for these intakes. The present study uses this indicator as a measure of health status. Due to limited information base on BMI very few studies in India have analysed the determinants of CED (which is the current health status) and even far fewer studies estimating the persons vulnerable to it (that is future health status). This paper attempts to do so based on a sample of ever-married women in the age group of 15-49 years in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) for the year 1998-99.
The results indicate that education, social infrastructure and quality of diet influence those who are likely to be CED in future, with significant rural urban differences. Apart from these well-known indicators, presence of drinking water source within the residence (whether piped or otherwise), women in the age group of 15-19 years, and education status of the husband seems important.
More importantly, the results clearly highlight that the CED rates and vulnerability rates can be very different across two sub-groups of population. Hence, the results from this study would be more useful in targeting policy most effectively as the emphasis would now be on potential deficient persons rather than on current ones, which is the convention in policy intervention.