Vitamin A supplementation among children in India: Does their socioeconomic status and the economic and social development status of their state of residence make a difference?

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: India has the largest percentage/number of vitamin A deficient children in the world. However, the effectiveness of a program of vitamin A supplementation at the population level has been rarely examined. We aim to examine the status of vitamin A supplementation among preschool children in India and its association with their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and the social and economic development level of the State in which they reside. Materials and Methods: Data are from a cross-sectional study of 20,802 children aged 12-35 months whose mothers participated in the National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS-3) conducted during 2005-2006. The association between the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the children, the social and economic development status of the State in which they reside and vitamin A supplementation status was examined by means of unadjusted and adjusted logistic regression models. Results: Only 25% of the children in India received vitamin A supplementation, indicating a poor coverage, and the differences between the States were wide ( < 10% to > 45%). Rural children (OR: 1.20; 95% CI: 1.10-1.30; P < 0.0001) and children of educated mothers (OR: 2.40; 95% CI: 2.04-2.83; P < 0.0001) were more likely to receive vitamin A supplementation than others. Children born in a higher birth order (6+) (OR: 0.54; 95% CI: 0.46-0.63; P < 0.0001) and those residing in states with low levels of social and economic development (OR: 0.51; 95% CI: 0.46-0.57; P < 0.0001) were only about half as likely to receive vitamin A supplementation as their counterparts. Conclusion: The national vitamin A supplementation program in India did not reach a majority of preschool children in 2005. Greater maternal formal education, higher household wealth status and high social development status of their State of residence appears to be an important determinant for receipt of a vitamin A supplementation by preschool children in India.