A mid-arm bangle with a 23 cm circumference will tell health workers in Bihar if a woman is malnourished. If the thickness of the arm is more than 23 cm, a woman above 19 years can be called healthy. But if the arm’s thickness in 23 cm or less, she would be categorised as “malnourished” and advised dietary correctives. The pilot project, to be started in Purnea district, is being conducted by Jeevika, a rural livelihood programme, with technical assistance from Unicef. Its aim is to find out malnourished women.
The method, however, is indicative and must not be taken as replacement of existing methods — Body Mass Index and sundry pathological tests to know health status. Unicef has devised the use of the metal bangles in place of colour-coded indicator tape to make the method user-friendly for rural women. The pilot, which could be replicated in other districts depending on its success, looks for ways to address problems of stunted children because of widely prevalent malnourishment among women in Bihar.
A WHO report says every second child born in Bihar is threatened by chances of stunting. The project has recently got under way in two blocks of Purnea — Kasba and Jalalgarh. Unicef communications officer Nipurnh Gupta told The Indian Express: “Though the mid-arm circumference tape is a well known method, it has been modified into a bangle for convenience of rural women…”
Asked how Unicef arrived at the 23 cm circumference, Gupta said it had been prepared by a team of independent experts and is a widely accepted standard. She said the idea of a pilot project is to devise a strategy to deal with prevalent malnutrition by suggesting a comprehensive plan.