The pandemic has shown that a country’s strength is dependent not just on its military might or diplomatic ties but also on the healthy development of its population, to be strong enough to fend off any virus attack today or in the future. It has become crucial to make the coming generation healthy sufficient to fight any diseases or any other challenges for health, which is why it is significant to invest in child nutrition.
Human development is a complicated process. The fetus’s growth depends on the mother’s diet and nutrition from the moment of conception. The health of the newborn child is directly proportional to the health of the mother. As a result, the mother’s health needs to be the deciding factor in the child’s health and immunity.
During pregnancy, the mother’s body undergoes many changes, and nutrition is the only way to cope with these changes. The energy needs of a pregnant woman rise by 350 kcal per day. Miscarriage risks rise if one doesn’t get enough Folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamins. A mother’s nutritional deficiency often results in the birth of a malnourished child who is at risk of stunting.
The child nutrition from the time of conception and till the age of two is critical for the child’s continual growth through their teenage and adulthood. Research conducted on human brain development states that brain development happens during these early periods. And any losses experienced during this period on nutrition are irreversible.
According to UNICEF, nearly 42% of Indian mothers are underweight at the start of their pregnancy, which directly impacts the figures, indicating that India accounts for 33% of the world’s stunted and wasted children. Poorly nourished infants don’t grow as tall as their peers. They fail to thrive physically. They fall behind better-fed ones in developing cognitive skills. The malnourished children do less well at school and lead more flawed adult lives. In economic terms, a malnourished kid has higher chances of becoming a liability to the family and the country.
A healthy person with excellent cognitive abilities and overall development is a valuable asset to their country. It is the children who determine the future of any country. Investing in the future generation’s nutrition is similar to investing in high return assets. It defines a country’s ability, wealth, and relative place among its peers.
A healthy child results in a healthy adult that takes advantage of the opportunities that come their way. Any developing country cannot deny that the nutrition and health of its mother and children decide whether the country is ever eligible to join the league of developed nations. As in the stock market, an astute investor would invest in their children’s overall development to maximise economic growth, as children are the nation’s potential flag bearers.
Many studies had supported the hypothesis that when pre-school children were fed with a rich diet in nutrition, the children show startling changes when they grew up compared to those who were given a less nutritionally beneficial diet. Children who were well fed remained in school longer, had better job prospects, and received higher incomes. Their improved physical and mental development was best suited to both professional and social life.
Childhood is also the basis of human capital growth, a complex and synergic mechanism in which early investments boost the efficiency of later investments, according to human capital theories.
Investing in child nutrition is the most controllable and effective measure to make our nation the most efficient and resourceful population in the future. By prioritising child nutrition, there is still time to influence the human capital production of an entire generation of Indians over the next 25 years, thereby enhancing the country’s economic growth.
Read more about Child Nutrition during the pandemic.
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