New Delhi: “There is a cost to healthcare, but if you ignore that cost initially, you end up paying a huge amount for it later. But what if we were to tell you that investment in healthcare can actually help you earn, help the country’s economy thrive, you don’t just save money, but earn more and contribute to the economy and this isn’t just a drawing-room observation, but the finding of our comprehensive new study on the economic advantages of investing in your country’s healthcare system,” says Ravi Bhatnagar, Director- External Affairs and Partnerships, AMESA RB Health.
Last year, Reckitt Benckiser took it upon themselves to work with the development sector, to create sustainable models of development for some of India’s most vulnerable populations. Nutrition India Programme was conceptualised with an aim to work together with communities, to push for solutions more rapidly onto the ground. The programme, which is presently working with the government to end malnutrition in Maharashtra’s Amravati and Nandurbar districts, considered to the toughest regions, have achieved many positives in the span of the last 10 months.
Explaining further about the role of social investments and Nutrition India Programme, Mr Bhatnagar adds added,
The project is intervening in first 1000 days, utilising digital and artificial intelligence-based innovative modules, strengthening the health, hygiene and nutrition status of pregnant women and children and targeting towards 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted, reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%. In the last 10 months, RB has invested Rs 10.7 crores in the programme for training community nutrition workers (CNW) in these two districts. These workers are given rigorous training by public health experts, paediatricians, gynaecologists and community development specialists. They are educated about the golden rules of good nutrition and then they go more women in their community. This way it becomes like a 360-degree circle. Apart from training the community nutrition workers, RB has also helped changed the nutrition game in these two districts, we have established 1,268 Kitchen Gardens within these areas and further trained the people about the importance of having good nutritious meals.
The impact of the programme can be seen from the many positives that have been achieved in the two districts of Maharashtra – Amravati and Nandurbar. The Nutrition India Programme reached more than 32,000 children under the age of five. Their nutrition and overall health were looked after and over 4,000 children received some kind of treatment. Around 3,900 pregnant women were provided support through multiple interventions, about 800 pregnant women were helped with institutional delivery and thousands of pregnant women were assisted to tackle lactation challenges, which were restored within a time span of less than 10 days.
Talking about the social investment strategy, Gaurav Jain, Senior Vice President, Health South Asia Reckitt Benckiser, said,
We seek to empower local communities to drive their change and own their programmes. Our approach is not to impose solutions; it’s to understand problems and alleviate them from the ground up. When people – especially women and girls – have access to good health, hygiene and sanitation services, the whole community benefits in the long run. That’s how we invest for life. Our social impact strategy focuses on the area of unmet needs where we can create the most impact as a business. These focus areas align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the Nutrition India Programme, we have supported Sustainable Development Goal 2- Zero Hunger.
How Nutrition India Programme Is Making A Change
Nutrition India Programme employs a host of behavioural nudges, apps, games, nutrition kits, multimedia stimuli, new kinds of resilience rituals, community festivals and engaging social experiences to build community capacity around nutrition and hygiene. Through an interactive and detailed curriculum with multiple training modules, these nutrition workers are trained by experts and doctors on understanding malnutrition, care of adolescents and young mothers, care during pregnancy, birth preparedness, antenatal and postnatal care, diet diversity, breastfeeding practices, health and hygiene practices and so on.
Kaushaliya Pawara who is now working as Community Nutrition Worker, as a part of the Nutrition India Programme (NIP) and is restoring lactation practices within her community and saving the lives of many newborns in Maharashtra, sharing her experience said,
I have seen many village women not able to feed their child, and as a result, many children died. I am very happy to work for a project where I am restoring lactation to the mothers and saving the life of a child who has just seen the light of life. The programme has provided me with tools like an interactive board game which focusses on dos and don’ts for taking care of a baby during first 1000 days of baby’s life, an interactive curriculum that guides women about breastfeeding practices, position. There is also a colour coded plate, which tells the women the importance of having all the colours in her plate so that she gets the right amount of nutrition – white, for milk and milk products, green, for vegetables, orange, for carrots and tomatoes, or brown colour for chappatis. Every day, with these interactive tools in hand, I go door-to-door training my village women. There were many things, I also was not aware of when it comes to breastfeeding and the importance of good nutrition for a mother to be or their babies. Now that, I have been made aware of these things, I want everyone to learn these basics as this is just not for their own good but for the community together.
Kaushaliya Pawara is not alone, today the programme has been able to train 41 Community Nutrition Workers in these two districts of Maharashtra. They in turn help in reaching out to around 204 communities.
Further explaining the vision of social investment through Nutrition India Programme, Mr Jain said that given our country’s population, though this programme is very small, yet an extremely significant first step towards ending malnutrition in the country. He added,
In the next five years, the project aims to cover 1000 villages across India and strengthen the health, hygiene and nutrition status of pregnant women and children.
The Importance Of Nutrition
Good nutrition is not about the quantity of food but the quality of food consumed. Good nutrition comes in various forms – in adults, through a healthy diet, through supplements and in newborn babies through breastfeeding. But in India, the status of nutrition is not that great. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 23 per cent women and 20 per cent men are undernourished in India. Whereas, 21 per cent women and 19 per cent men are obese. Around, 44 per cent women and 39 per cent men are not adequately nourished. Currently, 1 in 40 babies die during childbirth and 1 in 25 children die before age 5, according to WHO and UNICEF.
Most of these deaths are due to lack of access to clean water, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. These diseases represent a lack of sanitation and hygiene along with good nutritional values in Indian homes. Malnutrition contributes significantly to high mortality and morbidity by reducing immunity and thereby increased infection. On the other hand, lack of sanitation causes gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhoea, which is a leading cause of death among children.
Health Advisor to NIP, Dr Swati Maheshwari adds,
If nutrition and hygiene can begin in every household, a strong foundation for the future health of a society can be laid. And to lay the foundation stone one has to start early. Nutrition India Programme is not just any run-of-the-mill programme targeting malnutrition and its root causes from all directions, it’s actually a 360 degrees program in its approach, commitment as well as vision. It’s been an enriching and motivational experience at every step be it developing behavioural change communication tools or being a part of the strategy and consulting team.
The Way Forward
Going forward in Maharashtra, the following innovations are planned in the second year of the intervention within this programme:
- Strategy to ensure safe childbirth
- Community-based entrepreneurship
- Introduction of mobile application based digital weighing and measurement machine
- Breastfeeding pods at local markets, to name a few
Talking about the current scenario and the pandemic the world is going through, Nutrition India Programme believes that the need for such an intervention is even more in India as COVID-19 has brought with it a whole new set of challenges – anganwadi centres are not functional, door to door interventions too have been affected due to the lockdown, there’s also an impact on healthcare services – for instance, pregnant women seem apprehensive in visiting hospitals for regular check-ups or even deliveries. In such circumstances, the intervention of programmes like this assume importance.
Food or dietary supplements cannot prevent or cure COVID-19 but a healthy diet leads to a better immune system which can increase the chances of a fast recovery and reduce the load on hospitals and with that focus Nutrition India Programme now will work on its second phase.
Mr Bhatnagar signs off with a message,
Now is the time to make the investment in healthcare, we need it most. One rupee each invested in healthcare will generate Rs 37 worth of returns. Let’s work together and build healthy communities.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.