Nutrition and Poverty

Nutrition and Poverty

Nutrition and Poverty

Nutrition and Poverty

Synopsis

This work addresses issues arising from the definition and measurement of poverty in terms of nutritional status. A range of issues are covered, focusing on the differing views and perceptions of the related questions of assessing poverty and nutritional status. Possible definitions of a reference standard are discussed as well as energy deprivation, anthropometric measurement, and gender bias.

Excerpt

In this chapter it is the measurement of undernutrition in population groups rather than individuals that is under consideration. It is important to make this distinction at the very outset, because yardsticks and procedures that may be adequate for evaluation of the nutritional status of whole communities may not be suitable for the assessment of the nutritional status of a given individual. Individual genetic variations with respect to requirements of nutrients and response to their deprivations could get largely neutralized when large population groups in nearly similar socioeconomic and environmental status are considered.

Economists and planners, understandably, look for tidy methods of quantifying undernutrition in population groups. Biologists, however, would readily recognize the inherent limitations and pitfalls of exercises that seek to 'measure' undernutrition with mathematical precision. These limitations stem from the very nature of the undernutrition process--the multiplicity of interacting, often mutually reinforcing, factors involved in its causation; its evolution, often so insidious that it is hard to decide where normalcy has ended and subnormality (or abnormality) has set in; and its multiple clinical dimensions. It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss these limitations in detail, but a broad appreciation of them is essential for any meaningful discussion of the problem of measuring undernutrition.

The paper is organized as follows. Section 2.2 describes the biological processes involved in the genesis and development of undernutrition. Section 2.3 reviews the conceptual issues involved in the two major approaches to the measurement of undernutrition. These issues have been the subject of intense controversy in recent times, leading to sharply contrasting views on how undernutrition should be measured. These controversies are reviewed briefly, and my own views on the subject are presented. Section 2.4 is concerned with some of the practical problems of measuring undernutrition, bearing in mind the limitations of data on the one hand and the multi-faceted nature of undernutrition on the other. Here I argue that the measurement of undernutrition in large populations . . .

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