A new study by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has revealed that Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) continues to be a major nutritional problem and coverage of Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) was poor.
Dr A Laxmaiah,Assistant Director,Division of Community Studies,NIN,Hyderabad says that a community-based cross-sectional study across rural areas of eight states in India shows that there is a need for focussed attention on dietary diversification for the prevention of the VAD.
The study which is published in the April issue of the Journal of Public Health Nutrition surveyed a total of 71 591 pre-school children and clinically examined for ocular signs of VAD
The important determinants of VAD were illiteracy,low socio-economic status,occupation and poor sanitation. Strengthening the existing VAS programme is vital,Laxmaiah told The Indian Express.
We sought to assess the magnitude and determinants of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and coverage of vitamin A supplementation (VAS) among pre-school children.
The sub-clinical symptoms are not visible but the serum retinol concentrations in dried blood spots were less than 20 microgram per decilitre Subclinical VAD (serum retinol level <20 µg/dl) was observed in 62% of children. This was also relatively high among scheduled caste and scheduled tribe children. The rate of coverage of VAS was only 58%,says Laxmaiah. According to the WHO,clinical and subclinical deficiency of Vitamin A in India is the highest in the world. Although the universal Vitamin A prophylaxis program has been in place for the last three decades,vitamin A deficiency continues to be a public health concern in India. Around 15 million suffer from blindness,the world over. Of this one-fifth are blind due to vitamin A deficiency and annually,30,000 to 40,000 children lose their eyesight due to VAD . As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) the number of Children age 12-35 months who received a vitamin A dose in last 6 months is only 28.7(%). The strategies at the national level to combat vitamin A deficiency mainly involve in periodic distribution of high-dose vitamin A capsules twice a year to children six months to five years old,but less emphasis has been placed on dietary approaches to preventing and controlling Vitamin A deficiency. Presently, Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public health problem only in selected geographical pockets in the country,although there are wide variations within the states,says Professor Umesh Kapil from the Department of Human Nutrition,All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS),New Delhi. Experts like Kapil feel that the strategy should be one where the government should resist the soft option of resorting to supplementation of mega dose of VA in order to escape the responsibilities of improving the diets of young children. The children in poor communities need more "food rather than pills / tablets / sprays. And in tune with the observations that we should look to our farms and not pharmacies,for the nutritional improvement of our children,there are few solutions that are getting food based instead of drug based. Says Suneetha Sapur,nutrition consultant at LV Prasad Eye institute at Hyderabad,Food fortification with Vitamin A takes over where supplementation leaves off. According to Sapur,a new initiative has been taken up of setting up Vision Gardens in villages with a goal to eradicate nutritional blindness.