Ph. D. Thesis Colloquium
Speaker: Ms. Bita Afsharinia

Research Supervisor: Prof. Anjula Gurtoo
“Children Nutritional Status: Overall Assessment and COVID-19 Analysis “

Day & Date: Tuesday, 2nd Feb 2024
Time: 02:00 PM
Venue: Seminar Hall, DOMS

Malnutrition remains a global health concern, especially in India with high child mortality rates. Despite progress in the country, child malnutrition has reduced rather slowly and is not commensurate to the country’s economic growth in the last decade. While some studies examine nutrient inadequacy in a child’s diets, a lack of comprehensive assessment of underlying ecosystem variables remains a gap, especially so for underprivileged communities with a higher prevalence of malnutrition, requiring urgent attention.

Against this backdrop, the study investigates factors affecting child malnutrition and dietary adequacy in underprivileged communities. Additionally, the study explores the impact of COVID-19 on household food security and the implications on the country’s malnutrition situation. Secondary data was obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) multi-round survey conducted in households across India. The DHS data set included information on 2.5 million children, including health, nutrition, and demographic indicators, for children aged under five years. As the second step, primary data was collected through a structured questionnaire via face-to-face interviews in two periods: July-November 2018-19 and December-January 2020-21. The data focused on COVID-19 impact and human security among 2830 unskilled and semi-skilled employees in Bangalore.

Dietary Diversity Score (DDS) and Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory are used to assess pre-schoolers across wealth, gender, and health. Multiple linear regression models reveal overall wealth index doesn’t impact dietary diversity, but the lower wealth index affects female children’s DDS more than male children. Subsequently, we investigate the economic impact of COVID-19 on food consumption. One-tailed paired t-test shows lower earnings during lockdown. Wilcoxon’s signed rank test reveals reduced food consumption, especially in dairy products. Structural equation models indicate both direct and indirect effects of economic impact on food consumption, mediated by emotional distress and lack of government support. Using the CHAID algorithm, we explore the impact of government ration support, starch staples consumption, and the number of meals consumed per day on children’s educational status during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show the positive role of government ration support in reducing school dropout rates and increasing starch staples consumption. Furthermore, the availability of three meals per day contributes to better educational outcomes. These and other findings are discussed for their policy implications and policy impact.