Background. Despite recent achievement in economic progress in India, the fruit of development has failed to secure a better nutritional status among all children of the country. Growing evidence suggest there exists a socio-economic gradient of childhood malnutrition in India. The present paper is an attempt to measure the extent of socio-economic inequality in chronic childhood malnutrition across major states of India and to realize the role of household socio-economic status (SES) as the contextual determinant of nutritional status of children. Methods. Using National Family Health Survey-3 data, an attempt is made to estimate socio-economic inequality in childhood stunting at the state level through Concentration Index (CI). Multi-level models; random-coefficient and random-slope are employed to study the impact of SES on long-term nutritional status among children, keeping in view the hierarchical nature of data. Main findings. Across the states, a disproportionate burden of stunting is observed among the children from poor SES, more so in urban areas. The state having lower prevalence of chronic childhood malnutrition shows much higher burden among the poor. Though a negative correlation (r = -0.603, p < .001) is established between Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) and CI values for stunting; the development indicator is not always linearly correlated with intra-state inequality in malnutrition prevalence. Results from multi-level models however show children from highest SES quintile posses 50 percent better nutritional status than those from the poorest quintile. Conclusion. In spite of the declining trend of chronic childhood malnutrition in India, the concerns remain for its disproportionate burden on the poor. The socio-economic gradient of long-term nutritional status among children needs special focus, more so in the states where chronic malnutrition among children apparently demonstrates a lower prevalence. The paper calls for state specific policies which are designed and implemented on a priority basis, keeping in view the nature of inequality in childhood malnutrition in the country and its differential characteristics across the states.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health