Hyderabad: India’s children happen to be among the shortest in the world, as per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) report. The distribution of height in a population reflects the health and well-being that children experience at an young age.
Experts say that one of the critical factors that determine the height of a child is maternal nutrition. Women in India are underweight, mainly at the ages when they are likely to get pregnant. Especially among backward communities, the low social status of young women deprives them of the body mass that they need to nurture the next generation.
As per the NFHS-4 data, India’s overall average child height-for-age increased in 2015-16. Because Indian children were very short in 2005–06, this increase is a noteworthy improvement. But the average child height has been improving in other developing countries, too, so India, especially its large, disadvantaged northern plain states, remains near or at the bottom of the international ranking.
City-based nutritionist Fatima Taher Ali said, “From birth to the age of six, a baby grows by about half an inch to an inch every month and gains 140 to 200 grams every week. The three main factors that contribute to height growth are genes, diet, and lifestyle. Inadequate nutrition can stunt the growth of a child regardless of genetic predisposition.”
The survey reveals that on average, children in India are unhealthily short. The average child in India is shorter than the children raised by upper-middle-class families. And when it comes to the difference in growth between boys and girls, relative to healthier children of their own sex, Indian girls are slightly taller than boys in early life. By the age of 3, the height-for-age for girls fall slightly behind the boys.
The NFHS-4 measured the heights of 1,80,867 children all over the country who were less than 5-years-old. Clubbing together all of these children, their average height is about 83 centimetres.