A research grant of Amherst College,Massachusetts,one of the most prestigious colleges of the US,is funding the healthy child project in about 200 anganwadis of Mohali district,thanks to the efforts of the colleges youngest professor 26-year-old Prakarsh Singh.
Singh is from Chandigarh. An alumnus of YPS Mohali and DAV College,Sector 10,Singh did his doctorate from London School of Economics (LSE) before joining Amherst this year. He is also a trustee of a Chandigarh-based NGO,Bharat Prakarsh Foundation.
Singh is using the research grant given to him by the institute to fund this unique project. Singh is doing a study on reducing child malnutrition in Anganwadis in Mohali using a three-pronged approach – training workers,giving them incentives on the basis of their performance,and providing nutritional information to mothers in the form of recipe books.
When contacted by The Indian Express,Singh said,The project targets malnutrition among children aged 3-6 years. We have more than 5,000 children and their mothers in our sample,and check the childs health before and after interventions. The first phase took place in July this year,and the final phase will be held in January 2012.
The Amherst grant has become the major chunk of funding for this project,with Rs 2 lakh pooled in by Punjab Department of Social Security & Women and Child Development.
As part of the project,Anganwadi workers were given additional training in hygiene and nutrition,and mothers of these children were involved in ensuring better home food. Recipe books were printed in Punjabi for mothers and Anganwadi workers,with ten nutritious recipes made using easily available,cost-effective ingredients which would be liked by children.
Punjab Director Social Security & Women and Child Development Gurkirat Kirpal Singh told The Indian Express that he is receiving positive feedback on the project from the anganwadis. The NGO has involved mothers by interacting with them and giving them recipe books on nutritional food. We will forward research findings of this project to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. These can be used for policy decisions,and also as ground for replicating the project elsewhere, he said.
Prakarsh Singh,a Development Economist at Amherst,had carried out a similar project in 2010 in 165 anganwadis in the urban slums of Chandigarh,where incentives were provided to workers and information to mothers.
The project helped bring the child malnutrition rate down by 4 per cent here.
Singh said he was motivated to take up the research project because child malnutrition is extremely high in India (close to 45%),and claims the lives of 1.3 million children in the country annually.
Also,India has the worlds largest public sector child development program (Integrated Child Development Scheme) that began in 1978,but progress has been slow,and income growth has not translated in a decline in child malnutrition.
Singh also observed that mothers do not seem to know the best recipes to cook,which were both economical and nutritious,and workers seemed to have no incentive to work hard.