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Deciphering disparities in childhood stunting in an underdeveloped state of India: an investigation applying the unconditional quantile regression method
Authors: Saswata Ghosh, Santosh Kumar Sharma, and Debarshi Bhattacharya
Source: BMC Public Health, DOI:
Topic(s): Child health
Child height
Country: Asia
Published: OCT 2020
Abstract: Background: Unacceptably high rate of childhood stunting for decades remained a puzzle in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Despite various programmatic interventions, nearly half of the under-five children (numerically about 10 million) are still stunted in this resource-constrained state. Data and methods: Using four successive rounds of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data spread over more than two decades and by employing unconditional quantile regressions and counterfactual decomposition (QR-CD), the present study aims to assess effects of various endowments as well as returns to those endowments in disparities in childhood stunting over the period. Results: The results show that although the child’s height-for-age Z-scores (HAZ) disparity largely accounted for differing levels of endowments during the earlier decades, in the later periods, inadequate access to the benefits from various development programmes was also found responsible for HAZ disparities. Moreover, effects of endowments and their returns varied across quantiles. We argue that apart from equalizing endowments, ensuring adequate access to different nutrition-centric programmes is essential to lessen the burden of childhood stunting. Conclusion: The state must focus on intersectoral convergence of different schemes in the form of state nutrition mission, and, strengthen nutrition-centric policy processes and their political underpinnings to harness better dividend.