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The Wadia Group : Tackling malnutrition through collaboration and innovation

bnfAn estimated 70 per cent of under-five children, 56 per cent of adolescent girls and 58 per cent of pregnant mothers are anaemic in India. The Wadia Group through Britannia Nutrition Foundation and Wadia Hospitals is doing its best to find sustainable solutions for malnutrition among children by partnering with state governments and engaging with communities.

According to a data by UNICEF,  every two out of four children  under the age of five years  suffer from malnutrition  in India, while the data from 1990- 2015 showed one out of four children  suffered from it. There has been a two  fold increase, which is quite alarming  and a threat to the future generation.  Understanding the gravity of the  situation, the Wadia Group took a  two-pronged approach to deal with  the issue. Wadia Hospitals conducted  medical outreach programmes and  was supported by the Britannia  Nutrition Foundation (BNF) through  its nutrition fortification programme.  

The Wadia Group’s philosophy is aimed  at supporting ‘every child’s right to  nutrition and growth’. The Group’s  programmes are therefore focused  on supplementing the disadvantaged  with micro-nutrients and vitamins  through an off-the-shelf, convenient and  ready-to-eat product, which helps in  providing a malnutrition free childhood  for India’s children.  Nourishing India’s children The Britannia Nutrition Foundation  was set up in 2009 as an independent,  autonomous, non-profit body to  contribute to every child’s right to  nutrition and growth by implementing  sustainable, replicable programmes,  pursuing innovation and research,  addressing core and allied causes for  malnutrition.

BNF focuses on nourishing  children, mothers and innovation in  nutrition. Under nourishing children  and mothers programme, the focus is  on addressing anaemia through fortified  carriers—biscuits, counselling for  better nutrition and addressing non[1]direct causes of malnutrition such as  hygiene and sanitation. The research  and development of fortified products  to address malnutrition forms the  foundation of the innovation in nutrition.  

Over the last eight years, the  distribution of iron fortified carriers  (biscuits) which began in 2008 have  cumulatively benefited 5,00,000  children. BNF tied up with several  organizations such as Navjyoti  Foundation, Naandi Foundation, Akshay  Patra Foundation, Tamil Nadu state  government, Wockhardt Foundation and  KN Nutrition Mission (Shimoga district)  to distribute iron fortified biscuits to  school-going children in the age group  of 7-9 years under the theme ‘nourishing  children.’

In 2014-15, a partnership with the East Delhi Municipal Corporation  involved a field study with the All India  Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on  the distribution of iron fortified biscuits  to 50,000 children in the age group of 7-9  years. This study showed hemoglobin (HB) increase ranging from 1g/dl to  2.74g/dl.  In 2016, BNF tied up with the  Government of Maharashtra on the  Melghat Nutrition Project, a three[1]year MoU with the Women & Child  Development (WCD) Department.

The anganwadi workers are trained to upload weight data of every child every month. So far 25,370 children under the age of five years have been mapped and the data that has been transcribed and uploaded on the website for access by  Health Department and district officials.  It has helped identify severely acute malnourished (SAM) and moderately acute malnourished (MAM) children.  

At the core of the programme is the  emphasis on availability of real-time,  accurate data on nutrition status of  children under five years of age and  helping improve the nutritional status of  children in a time-bound and systematic  manner.  In addition to this, BNF works on health  and nutrition-focused activities around  nine Britannia factory locations across  six states.

The Jhagadia programme in  Gujarat focuses on improving access to  government services for child nutrition  and reducing malnutrition in children  under the age of five. The programme is  currently underway in 16 villages within  the 10-50 km radius of the factory with  over 7,000 households and is benefiting  378 children under the age of five. The  Perundurai programme in Tamil Nadu on  improving nutrition amongst adolescent  girls is currently being implemented in  10 villages with a population of 3,500  households and benefits 475 adolescent  girls between the ages of 12-19.  

The district development officer,  district health officer and the ICDS  programme officer for bharuch district  are involved in the Jhagadia programme  to improve access to government  services for child nutrition and reducing  malnutrition. The programme aims to  increase attendance and enrolment  in anganwadi centres, helps workers  maintain proper monthly records on  children’s weight and IEC to encourage  consumption of food provisions  distributed for in-home consumption;  decrease the number of moderately  and severely underweight children and  increase in consumption of nutritious  food.

Using behavioural changes in  lifestyle, access to government schemes,  dietary habits, and health and hygiene,  the Perundurai programme aims to  reduce anaemia amongst adolescent  girls.  BNF aims to contribute to Every  Child’s right to Nutrition and Growth  by implementing sustainable, replicable  programmes, pursuing product  innovation and research, and addressing  core and allied causes for malnutrition.  The R&D team at Britannia leads the  development of fortified products  to address malnutrition which pays  special attention to the formulations of  fortified biscuits right down to stringent  dosage applications to provide age and  deficiency appropriate nutrition.  

Comprehensive health care  Established in the late 1920s, the Wadia  Hospitals—Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital  for Children (BJWHC) and Nowrosjee  Wadia Maternity Hospital—are integral  part of the philanthropic activities of  the Wadia Group. Both the hospitals are  heritage structures and each hospital  sees more than 10,000 inpatients and  over 1,00,000 outpatients annually. The  hospital also conducts medical outreach  programmes to support communities  in the outskirts of Mumbai who cannot  afford to avail the services within the  city.

The medical outreach programme  has staff from the hospital—doctors,  lab technicians—travelling down to the  tribal-dominated Palghar district, 110  km from Mumbai, to provide preventive  health care aid to the adivasis (Warlis,  Dubla, Dhodi), Bhandari, Agri (Mangela)  and Bari communities.  At least 500 severely acute  malnourished and moderately acute  malnourished children from five villages  (Aine, Ashagad, Ganjad, Saivan and  Vangaon) were targeted.

Aganwadi  sevikas (volunteers) were trained on  the fortified product, age appropriate  dosage of nutrient to be provided as well  as documenting information by 24-hour  dietary recall method using diet charts. Using public-private partnerships  to find sustainable solutions for  malnutrition by partnering with state  governments; engaging consistently and  deeply with communities around the  factories through factory and partner[1]led programmes, the Wadia Group,  through BNF and Wadia Hospitals, aims  to continue its journey to build a healthy  and well-nourished India.