Anaemia: A Big Public Health Challenge

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : January 9th, 2021

As per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS), Anaemia in children and women worsened in the past half-a-decade across most states and Union territories. About 68.4 per cent children and 66.4 per cent women surveyed suffered from anaemia in 2019. In light of this, we present you an analysis of the Anemia control efforts by the government.


Anaemia is one of the major public health challenges in India. Anaemia is a condition in which an individual has a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells (RBC) or quantity of haemoglobin which reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood causing a number of health problems and even death.

Effects of Anaemia

If untreated, Anemia causes several health problems which include:

  • Fatigue: Severe anaemia can make an individual feel tired and reduce his productivity and agility in work.
  • Complications in pregnant women: Pregnant women with folate deficiency is more likely to conceive a premature birth.
  • Severe anaemia causes heart problems and even cause death, etc.

The loss of GDP to anaemia was pegged at USD 22 billion in 2016. As per the Global Nutrition Report 2020, India will miss targets for all four nutritional indicators for which there is data available, i.e. stunting among under-5 children, anaemia among women of reproductive age, childhood overweight and exclusive breastfeeding.

The problem of Anemia still persists in India, despite various national programs and interventions as mentioned below exist:

  • National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme (1970), which focuses on distributing Iron and Folic acid tablets to women and children between 1 to 5 years. 
  • Poshan Abhiyan (National Nutrition Mission)- An overarching scheme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Challenges in Implementation and Controlling Anaemia

Several experts observed the following challenges in the implementation of schemes meant for Anaemia control:

  • Inadequate nutrition is the most common cause of anaemia. About fifty per cent of the anaemia cases are caused due to iron deficiency and inadequate intake of Vitamin B9 and B12.
  • The lowest priority accorded to women's nutritional needs in the family.
  • Lack of coordination and ownership among various departments in implementing the schemes.
  • Supplements ( Iron-Folic Acid tablet) do not reach the intended beneficiaries.
  • Outdated reporting mechanism followed by the health officials 
  • Health functionaries were not properly oriented towards the program. They don't even know who the beneficiaries are.
  • Focus of the government officials is confined to data collections, but the utilisation of such data for informed decision making and policy decision has been lacking.


  • Need for better interdepartmental coordination 
  • Streamlining reporting system mechanism
  • Leverage of ICT tools like a web-based system to improve monitoring and reporting mechanism.
  • Orienting the grassroots social workers- Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers- about the benefits of the schemes.
  • Partnership with NGOs and civil society organisations for better targeting the schemes
  • A wide-ranging awareness campaign to bring about a significant change in social behaviour and mindset towards the nutritional needs of women and family food traditions

Way Forward

For India to achieve Kuposhan Mukt Bharat (India free from malnutrition) by 2022 and SDG Goal-1 (zero hunger ) and SDG 3 (ensure health and well-being for all) by 2030, it requires wide-ranging and comprehensive interventions to eliminate anaemia.

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