Tamil Nadu

ICDS: For a healthy future


The Tamil Nadu government will soon launch a mega study to identify the health and nutritional status of children in all 32 districts in the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), which has been implemented in one form or the other since 1979.

Though the government spends over Rs.1,800 crore every year on the ICDS, the largest community-based outreach programme for holistic early child development, there has never been a third party evaluation of its benefits.

“There is also no State-wide baseline that can be used to measure annual progress,” says a senior government official.

The survey, for which proposals have been invited, will rectify some of these deficiencies and identify any lacuna in the way in which the scheme is administered.

Though Tamil Nadu fares better than most other States in the child nutritional status, national surveys indicate that a third of the children under the State’s anganwadi system suffer from under-nutrition.

The survey will thus check the ground reality and see if the malnutrition data at the grassroots are correct, the official says. “If a child is under or malnourished in the 0-3 age bracket, it will seriously affect all future growth and development,” he adds.

About 48,000 children across 1,600 anganwadi centres will be randomly selected for measurement of their height, weight, cognitive skills, dietary habits and socio-economic status. There will also be separate surveys of the infrastructure at the centres, the knowledge base of anganwadi workers, and the awareness among the local community of the ICDS.

“The results will allow us to draw comparisons between districts, which can be used for future targeting,” explains the official. Once the eight-month study is complete, the State will also have a nutritional baseline.

“Similar large-scale surveys by agencies outside the government will follow. We want to move towards evidence-based policymaking,” says an official.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 1:36:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/child-nutrition-for-a-healthy-future/article6576379.ece

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