Approaching Health Policy Research to deal with maternal and child nutrition challenges in a post-Covid World
Nutrition has always been a policy priority in health studies. In recent times, many middle- and low-income countries have strengthened their nutrition policies and programs with measurable success. Recent studies provided evidence to explore how the nutrition progress in India struggled during the Covid-19 crisis and why it is an appropriate time to approach the health policy research to mitigate the adverse nutrition impacts through multi-sectoral actions to protect the vulnerable mothers and children.
The Covid-19 pandemic has damaged the nutritional status of vulnerable groups through multiple mechanisms resulting in a sharp decline in dietary quality in India stemming from income losses due to government-mandated lockdowns and mobility restrictions. The suspension of food transfer schemes such as mid-day meal programs and the breakdown of food markets due to demand shock and supply constraints had seriously affected the nutrition outreach programs and schemes. The high rates of under-nutrition in the form of deficiencies in vitamins and minerals had severely affected the long-term health of women and children progressing towards increased risks of underweight, weakness and diet-related non-communicable diseases.
The pandemic had raised the challenges for women and child nutrition and compels the public healthcare systems to revisit the diets, services and practices that mothers and children require to support adequate nutrition. Studies are required to undertake a rapid assessment to identify key priorities for health policy research in India within the context of maternal and child nutrition challenges. Based on evidence from the pandemic crisis, it is a time to outline the health policy research shift require to protect the vulnerable, especially women and children, from the effects of nutritional crisis. There is a dire need of research information to shape policies by placing issues on policy agenda. It is time to explore research informed policy development and its importance in taking right decisions in terms of surveillance of vulnerable population (through surveys) and co-ordination of various stakeholders across sectors including health, agriculture, education, water and sanitation, social protection and commerce and trade. Since, malnutrition is a multidimensional problem, a clear understanding of policy shift in approaches is important to deal with the contextual issues of nutrition and how concerns are raising in a post-Covid world to identify and implement effective and affordable health interventions in Indian sub-continent.