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Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Complex challenge

Child malnutrition has always been considered one of India's primary development challenges

Child malnutrition has always been considered one of India’s primary development challenges. But back in 2013, Arvind Panagariya, now vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog, challenged that narrative. International benchmarks to measure malnutrition in children were faulty, he argued, because they failed to take into account genetic differences that could explain the lower weight and shorter heights of Indian children.

Now researchers Caterina Alacevich and Alessandro Tarozzi have countered the “genetic" argument by comparing data from India’s National Family Health Survey with those from the Health Survey of England. They find that ethnic Indian children of two to four years of age born and raised in England were taller than children in India—as tall as Caucasian British children.

Caveats apply: the Indian-origin children surveyed in the UK are not a representative sample of children across India. That said, their results reinforce the complexity of India’s malnutrition problem—and of any policy solutions.

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