|Culture, Environment, and Food to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1997, 208 pages)|
|Part III. Assessing natural food sources of Vitamin A in the community|
|8. India: The rural community of Sheriguda in Andhra Pradesh|
Although vitamin A supplementation is a simple and effective intervention, it is only a short-term measure. It should be combined with dietary modification for long-lasting effects. Education, although an important component of all health and nutrition programs, has been one of the weakest linkages, mainly because the health functionaries are not properly oriented and do not have the necessary tools to impart nutrition education. There is a need to strengthen information, education, and communication strategies using a multimedia approach to bring about desirable changes in dietary practices. Special attention must be paid to pregnant and lactating women to ensure adequate intake of vitamin A-rich foods. Promotion of breastfeeding is important as it protects infants against all nutritional deficiencies during the first four to six months. Appropriate weaning foods based on locally available carotene-rich foods can be developed for young children between six and twenty-four months of age.
Nutrition education programs will be more successful if they are combined with horticultural interventions to increase the availability of carotene-rich foods at the community level. Although India is one of the leading producers of vegetables, green leafy vegetables constitute only 16% of the total vegetable production. Horticultural crops must be increased to meet the requirements. Promotion of home gardening is important to increase availability at the household level. Emphasis should be put on perennial varieties of green leafy vegetables that are relatively easy to grow, such as basella and agathi Efforts are being made in this direction by the Department of Agriculture and Social Forestry. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research has established a number of Krishi Vigyan Kendras or Farm Science Centres in various parts of the country to train farmers in agriculture technologies to improve production. There is a need to develop a mechanism of coordination between the various departments involved in horticultural and educational activities for optimum benefit of the community.