The age distribution of India’s population shows a young country, our so-called ‘demographic-dividend’. Yet, poor maternal and foetal nutrition, poor sanitation, open defecation, infections and diseases — such as diabetes in mothers — severely affect the development of India’s children.
The health of our young people is of great importance and will ensure their future as productive adults and healthy seniors. The long-term consequences of early ill health can be severe. Recent studies point to the high prevalence of stunted growth of children in India aged 0-5 years. The frequencies are comparable to those in sub-Saharan Africa.
Research is also challenging the conventional belief that the brain is the organ least affected by early developmental problems stemming from nutritional deficits or diseases. Importantly, the cognitive consequences of early developmental disorders can range from the mild to the severe. Many who do not show obvious impairment could be affected. The frequency of severe cognitive disability may only indicate the more widespread range of less obvious impairments. Some of these can be manifested as more serious deficits or loss of cognitive abilities in later life.