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Tackling Nutrition In Odisha: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Odisha’s efforts at restoring health and nutrition service delivery have been exemplary

Poshan Desk | Mar 01, 2021

Odisha has made more rapid progress in reducing child undernutrition than many other richer states. Particularly between 2006 and 2016, nutrition and health outcomes improved significantly in the state. The prevalence of stunting declined from 45 percent to 34.1 percent, although there was a marginal increase in wasting from 19.6 to 20.4 percent and in severe wasting from 5.2 to 6.4 percent.

Between 2006 and 2016, Odisha adopted a range of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive policies and the state’s progress in the coverage of health and nutrition interventions was promising. Under a committed political and bureaucratic leadership, nationally sponsored nutrition programs expanded and state-led initiatives relevant to improving nutrition were launched. The coverage of most maternal and child nutrition interventions increased substantially in the state; key contributors to this success included a strong emphasis on integration of services at the point of delivery, decentralization of service delivery through self-help groups, and a strategic focus on equity of access to health and nutrition interventions. Financial restructuring in the early 2000s and various social safety net programs to address food insecurity and poverty among the poor also supported Odisha’s nutrition progress.

  • What lies ahead for Odisha?

With further scaling up of these interventions, along with actions on water, sanitation, and hygiene, Odisha is poised to achieve its policy targets on childhood stunting. However, the state will be 6 percentage points short of its target for the reduction of anemia among women of reproductive age and it will not achieve its wasting target. To accelerate and sustain nutrition-related progress, a focus on closing inter-district variability is vital.

Odisha’s recent launch of the Strategy for Odisha’s Pathway to Accelerated Nutrition demonstrates its preparedness for, and is a testament to, its commitment to reaching its nutrition targets. As Odisha looks ahead to the next phase of its nutrition journey, it can draw on multiple lessons from the past. Investments in continuing to build evidence on key new initiatives will also help to create new insights for the state and for other states in India.

Although COVID-19 poses new challenges to health and nutrition programs as well as to livelihoods, Odisha’s efforts at restoring health and nutrition service delivery have been exemplary. The insights from the policy analysis and the phone-based frontline health worker surveys conducted in Odisha in October 2020 affirm the state’s commitment to delivering maternal and child health and nutrition services.

This report explores the state of nutrition in Odisha, assesses how nutrition outcomes changed in the state, and more importantly, and examines the road that lies ahead of Odisha on the journey to support better nutrition for the state.

(Reprinted with permission from IFPRI)