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Trends and drivers of change in the prevalence of anaemia among 1 million women and children in India, 2006 to 2016
  1. Phuong Hong Nguyen1,
  2. Samuel Scott1,
  3. Rasmi Avula1,
  4. Lan Mai Tran2,
  5. Purnima Menon1
  1. 1 Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  2. 2 FHI360, Hanoi, Vietnam
  1. Correspondence to Dr Phuong Hong Nguyen; P.H.Nguyen{at}


Introduction India carries the largest burden of anaemia globally. Progress to reduce anaemia has been slow despite substantial economic growth and 50 years of programmatic efforts. Identification of the factors that contribute to anaemia reductions is needed to accelerate progress. We examined changes in haemoglobin (Hb) and anaemia among women and children in India from 2006 to 2016 and identified drivers of changes in these outcomes over time.

Methods We used two rounds of National Family Health Survey data collected in 2005–2006 and 2015–2016 (n=245 346 children 6–59 months; 37 165 pregnant women (PW) 15–49 years; 760 460 non-pregnant women (NPW) 15–49 years). We first examined trends in Hb and anaemia, and changes in 30 selected variables (including immediate and underlying determinants, and nutrition and health interventions (NHIs)). We identified drivers of Hb and anaemia using multivariate regression and estimated their contribution to changes in these outcomes over time using regression-based decomposition.

Results Hb and anaemia improved significantly between 2006 and 2016 in children (4.5  g/L and 11 percentage points (pp), respectively) and PW (3.2  g/L and 7.6 pp), but not in NPW. Despite these changes, anaemia is still very high (>50%) and progress varied considerably by state (−33 pp to +16 pp). Most immediate and underlying determinants, and NHIs improved significantly over time. Changes among a set of drivers common to children and PW accounted for the changes in Hb; these included maternal schooling (children, 10%; PW, 24%), coverage of NHIs (children, 18%; PW, 7%), socioeconomic status (children, 7%; PW, 17%), sanitation (children, 3%; PW, 9%), and meat and fish consumption (children, 3%; PW, 1%). The decomposition models moderately explained Hb changes over time (children, 49%; PW, 66%).

Conclusions Multiple common drivers have contributed to the anaemia changes among children and pregnant women in India. Further improvements in these drivers can have population-level effects by simultaneously influencing both maternal and child anaemia.

  • anaemia
  • child health
  • maternal health
  • nutrition
  • public health

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  • Handling editor Sanni Yaya

  • Contributors PHN conceived the manuscript, conducted the statistical analysis, wrote significant sections of the manuscript and revised the manuscript. SS conducted the literature review on anaemia, reviewed the statistical analyses, contributed to data visualisation, wrote significant sections of the manuscript and revised the manuscript. LMT conducted the statistical analysis, prepared tables and figures for the manuscript. RA supported data interpretation, reviewed and edited the manuscript. PM reviewed the statistical analyses, supported data interpretation, reviewed and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final submitted manuscript.

  • Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through POSHAN, led by International Food Policy Research Institute. Grant/Award Number: OPP1150189.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data are provided in the manuscript.

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