Understanding the geographical burden of stunting in India: A regression-decomposition analysis of district-level data from 2015-16. uri icon

abstract

  • India accounts for approximately one third of the world's total population of stunted preschoolers. Addressing global undernutrition, therefore, requires an understanding of the determinants of stunting across India's diverse states and districts. We created a district-level aggregate data set from the recently released 2015-2016 National and Family Health Survey, which covered 601,509 households in 640 districts. We used mapping and descriptive analyses to understand spatial differences in distribution of stunting. We then used population-weighted regressions to identify stunting determinants and regression-based decompositions to explain differences between high- and low-stunting districts across India. Stunting prevalence is high (38.4%) and varies considerably across districts (range: 12.4% to 65.1%), with 239 of the 640 districts have stunting levels above 40% and 202 have prevalence of 30-40%. High-stunting districts are heavily clustered in the north and centre of the country. Differences in stunting prevalence between low and high burden districts were explained by differences in women's low body mass index (19% of the difference), education (12%), children's adequate diet (9%), assets (7%), open defecation (7%), age at marriage (7%), antenatal care (6%), and household size (5%). The decomposition models explained 71% of the observed difference in stunting prevalence. Our findings emphasize the variability in stunting across India, reinforce the multifactorial determinants of stunting, and highlight that interdistrict differences in stunting are strongly explained by a multitude of economic, health, hygiene, and demographic factors. A nationwide focus for stunting prevention is required, while addressing critical determinants district-by-district to reduce inequalities and prevalence of childhood stunting.

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2018