Background The recent rises in global food prices have passed on to India and all the Indian states experienced huge price rise for all the major food items including rice and wheat. Recent studies showed that India’s impressive economic growth had not transformed to better maternal and child nutrition outcomes, and it is unknown whether the rising food price cause child malnutrition. We investigated the effect on food price shock on child nutrition in Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest Indian states where more than 85 million people live.
Methods We used a natural experiment study design with multilevel regression model. We used wasting as main outcome measure as this would better measure the effects of short-term fluctuation (price) of food intake on child nutrition outcome and price as the predictor after controlling for potential confounders such as socio-economic-demographic variables and episodes of natural disaster and social security programs. We utilised the food consumption and anthropometric measures from DFID-Young Lives data, a longitudinal cohort study set up in Andhra Pradesh in 2002 with a sample size of 2000 children of 6–18 months who had been followed in 2006 and 2009. This data was merged with the monthly price data from various market hubs collected by National Sample Survey Organisation since 2000, and we used the district level price of 12 highly consumed food items among Indian households.
Results The food price increased steadily from 2000 but had more than doubled after 2006. The per capita food intake had declined and the proportion of food expenditure to total expenditure increased after 2006. The percentage of children wasted was 19% in 2002 and 18.4% in 2006 but increased to 28% in 2009. An increase in the price each of the major food items increased the odds of wasting among the children, for e.g. one unit increase in price of rice resulted in 5% increase in the odds of wasting (adjusted odds ratio: 1.05; p < 0.001).
Conclusion The rising food prices adversely affected the childhood nutrition in India. The development programs to improve the maternal and child health will become ineffective if the policy measures to control the rising food price and to increase food security for people are not implemented.
- food price shock
- childhood nutrition
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