The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is constituting a team to start a multi-centre research study to assess the effects of providing appropriate take home foods in combination with behaviour change intervention to ensure good complementary feeding practice that is nutritionally optimum to meet young children’s nutrient needs.
While admitting to poor complementary feeding practices in India for children between six and 24 months of age, the Council has called for expression of interest on the project from researchers across India.
“Time between six and 24 months is a critical age-window that influences subsequent growth trajectory and heightens the risk of wasting, stunting and undernutrition if the diet and care environment of children is not optimal. The period, typically, determines a child’s growth, development, and future potential,” explained ICMR.
Complementary feeding is defined as the process starting when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet infants’ nutritional requirements, resulting in the need for other foods and liquids along with breast milk.
Listing out the challenges in complementary feeding, ICMR maintained that there are often suboptimal practices, including inadequate quality or quantity of foods, poor feeding practices, complementary feeding being initiated too early or too late, or being provided in quantities that are too small or infrequent etc.
It noted that while the Take Home Ration (THR) programme aims to play a critical role in improving the nutritional intakes of children.
“However, continued poor complementary feeding practices suggest that there is a need to re-look at the programme and make strategic adaptations to increase its impact and reach through improving quality and nutritional content of THR,” the Council noted while suggesting that apart from providing the right food, ensuring that an infant/young child is actually eating it is equally critical.
Advocating for behaviour change communication in the community regarding the correct and optimum use of take-home ration, the Council explained that understanding what influences feeding behaviours and how to promote the adoption of better practices in various cultures and contexts are necessary for improving complementary feeding.
As part of the project the selected researchers shall be invited to join the research team and shall collaborate to develop a full research proposal and roll out the multi-centre research project which will be coordinated by ICMR.
The process of development of proposal and research project implementation shall be reviewed by an independent expert committee and the overall goal of the research is to develop interventions to foster proper complementary feeding practices and provide adequate and optimum nutrition to young children for achieving reduction of childhood undernutrition.