Iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) among women in India is a problem of major public health significance. Using data from three waves of the National Family Health Survey, this article discusses the burden of and trend in IDA among women in India, and discusses the level of iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation and its potential role in reducing the burden of IDA. Between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, IDA in India decreased by only 3.5 percentage points (from 56.5% in 2005-2006 to 53.0% in 2015-2016) for women aged 15-49 years. However, during the same period, of 27 states compared, IDA increased in eight: Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh; furthermore, some of these (e.g. Kerala) are states that rank among the highest on the state Human Development Index but had failed to contain the burden of IDA. Although there is a standard guideline for IFA supplementation in place, the IFA intervention appears to be ineffective in reducing the burden of IDA in India (nationally only 30.3 % of mothers consumed IFA for 100 days or more when they were pregnant), probably due to irregular consumption of IFA where the provision of screening under the National Iron+ Initiative scheme appears to be unsuccessful. To strengthen the IFA intervention and its uptake, a concerted effort of community-level health workers (accredited social health activists, auxiliary nurse midwives and anganwadi workers) is urgently needed. In addition, food-based strategies (dietary diversification and food fortification), food supplementation and improvement of health services are required to reduce the burden of anaemia among women in India.
Keywords: India; iron and folic acid; iron-deficiency anaemia; pregnancy.