A long bar is hung on a rope from a beam. On one end of the bar is a long strap that is attached to a harness of sorts and a little child sits inside while the Anganwadi worker adds more weight on one end until the bar is perfectly horizontal.
“This is one of the three methods we use to weigh children here,” Uma an Anganwadi Worker from Kottakuppam in the Villupuram District said.
In addition to the bar scale, the children are also weighed on a salter scale, which is a circular device from which the child is suspended from a harness. The Integrated Child Development Scheme has mandated the use of the salter scale to measure children from the age of six months to one year.
“All Anganwadis in Tamil Nadu have been provided with salter scales and bar scales to measure children’s weights. There is also a strict instruction to ensure that the children that visit the Anganwadis are weighed every month on a specific date,” she said. The date of measuring must be written on the black board in the Anganwadi and records maintained of the child’s weight every month.
The Anganwadi workers have now been given training on measuring the child’s height as well and they are currently awaiting official instruction to begin weight measurement as well. It is expected to begin in the month of April, an official from the ICDS program in Tamil Nadu said.
In Puducherry, on the other hand, there are serious problems with how the children are being weighed. According to a study conducted last year by the a postgraduate student J. Gurukartick from the Department of Community Medicine, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College and Hospital, although the training given to the Anganwadi Workers regarding growth monitoring was good, the Anganwadis themselves were only provided with bathroom weighing scales.
The weight measurement of the children was also done with them fully clothed and the workers failed to advice the parents on the child’s nutritional status in many centres. The study also revealed deficits in the growth monitoring practices in the rural Public Health Centres in Puducherry as well.
According to former coordinator for Food and Nutrition Board activities in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu Thirunavukkarasu, there is a huge gap between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in terms of monitoring of growth.
In Puducherry, the last comprehensive study done of children’s growth and nutrition status was in the 1980s and since then nothing has been done.
Even weighing scales were not provided in most Anganwadis until recently and the scales provided were only bathroom scales. Another problem is that more children in Tamil Nadu are enrolled in the ICDS programme, while in the Union Territory, a large number of children, even if they are eligible for the programme do not visit the Anganwadi centres. In the Villupuram District, however, the coverage is more comprehensive, he said.
(This story has been facilitated under the One World-POSHAN fellowship grant)