More than half the women in the country are anaemic and one in three child is underweight.
"Anaemia is disturbingly common among adults. 55 percent of women in India are anaemic and 43 percent of kids below the age of three are underweight," reveals the final report of the National Family Health Survey - III (NFHS-3), released on 11th October.
The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) is the third in a series of national surveys; earlier NFHS surveys were carried out in 1992-93 (NFHS-1) and 1998-99 (NFHS-2).
Anaemia among pregnant women during that period has also increased. Even though men are much less likely than women to be anaemic, anaemia levels in men are at around 24 percent," the NFHS survey revealed.
The findings showed that malnutrition continues to be a significant health problem for children and adults in India.
"There has been very marginal change in the percentage of children who are underweight. From 43 percent underweight children in 1998-99 to 40 percent in 2006."
NFHS-3 also found high prevalence of anaemia - 70 percent in children aged 6-59 months. Anaemia is primarily linked to poor nutrition.
"Women and men suffer a dual burden of over nutrition and under nutrition. More than one third of women are too thin, while 13 percent are overweight.
"One-third of men are too thin, and 9 percent are overweight or obese. The states with the largest percentage of overweight women and men are in Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi, especially among the more educated," the survey pointed out.
All three NFHS surveys were conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, with the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, serving as the nodal agency. ORC Macro, Calverton, Maryland, USA, provided technical assistance for all three NFHS surveys. NFHS-1 and NFHS-2 were funded by the United States Agency for International Development, with supplemental funding from UNICEF.
NFHS-3 funding was provided by the United States Agency for International Development, the Department for International Development (United Kingdom), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Government of India. Assistance for the HIV component of the NFHS-3 survey was provided by the National AIDS Control Organisation and the National AIDS Research Institute.
In NFHS-3, 18 research organisations conducted interviews with more than 230,000 women age 15-49 and men age 15-54 throughout India. NFHS-3 also tested more than 100,000 women and men for HIV and more than 200,000 adults and young children for anaemia. Fieldwork for NFHS-3 was conducted from December 2005 to August 2006.