Public Health Nutrition Scholarships Take Root in India

In the summer of 2003, graduate students at Lady Irwin College in New Delhi, India were given an opportunity to enhance their training and research. That’s when CECHE partnered with the school’s Food and Nutrition Department to establish a scholarship program for its master’s degree and doctoral candidates. This scholarship opportunity is designed to increase the potential of students in the masters and doctoral degree programs to enhance their training and research.

At least three public health nutrition scholarships are awarded each year — two to master’s candidates and one to a doctoral student, chosen on a merit-cum-means basis. Applications are screened by the director of Lady Irwin, the head of the Food and Nutrition Department and an instructor nominee. The school’s scholarship committee then approves the final candidate list and presents the recommendations to CECHE for review.

Scholarship Recipients

To date, nineteen students have been awarded scholarships. The most recent awardees – three in November 2007 are: Neha Gupta, Charu Tyagi and Aashima Garg.

Through her thesis, M.Sc. student Neha Gupta is studying the interrelationship between maternal knowledge, feeding practices and the nutritional status of pre-schoolers.  Her objectives are: to assess maternal awareness of good child feeding practices and nutritional awareness, and its influence on the nutritional status of the children; to study the feeding behaviors of pre-schoolers; and to assess their nutritional status.

A student member of the Nutrition Society of India, Charu Tyagi is pursuing a master’s in foods and nutrition, researching the role of diet and lifestyle as risk factors in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus in adult Indian males.  As part of her B.Sc. course work, she previously investigated and performed a detailed assessment of leading Delhi NGOs.

Food and nutrition doctoral candidate Aashima Garg has experience working with community and international humanitarian aid and development organizations focusing on community health, nutrition and education during emergency and non-emergency situation, especially for women and infants.  She is currently researching the impact of community-based nutrition counseling on improving the complementary feeding practices of infants (6-12 months) in rural Uttar Pradesh.  The four-phase study is being conducted in six villages from three rural community development blocks in district Ghaziabad of the Indian state. To date, three phases of the study have been completed, and the intervention shows promising results, with noticeable improvement in the complementary feeding practices of the infants in the intervention villages vis-à-vis the control villages and better service delivery of existing health care providers at the grassroots level.

The recipients for 2006 were:  Neha Manchanda, Shreya Arora and Vani Sethi.

Using a cross-over experimental design, M.Sc. student Neha Manchanda is investigating the “causes and management of iron deficiency anemia in girls aged 18-21 years.”  She is assessing hemoglobin levels in subjects, taking anthropometric measurements (height, weight, BMI); investigating current dietary intake patterns and food-related behavior; providing dietary counseling, and iron and folic acid supplements to anemic subjects; and reassessing their hemoglobin status after intervention.

Shreya Arora’s M.Sc. thesis, “Consumer Acceptability and Effect of Household Storage on Iodine Levels of Double Fortified Salt (DFS),” addresses the problem of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) and Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) — both major micronutrient deficiencies of public health significance in India. Salt is an ideal low-cost vehicle for micronutrient fortification; however, data on the stability of iodine in salt at the household level is scarce, and further research is needed in this field.  Therefore, Ms. Arora is assessing the availability of different types of salt in the markets of Delhi; conducting a consumer survey to study the storage and consumption practices of salt, and to estimate losses of iodine and iron from DFS when stored in different types of containers. Finally, she is conducting a sensory evaluation of different food products cooked with DFS and assessing consumer acceptability.

A doctoral student and the author of 12 papers in scientific journals, Vani Sethi is investigating “the effect of counselling by grandmothers on young infant feeding, care and growth in poor rural households of district Agra, Uttar Pradesh.”  This intervention-control study uses a community-service provider partnership between active elderly women concerned with maternal-infant health and village-level traditional birth attendants. An evaluation of the first 14 months of intervention in 2005-06 showed that the practice of timely initiation and exclusive breastfeeding (0-6 months) has increased by 76.1 percent and 21.1 percent respectively.

The three scholarship recipients for 2005 were: Arti Aggarwal Gupta, Harsh Bhatia and Shefali Sharma.

As India succeeds in combating infectious diseases, the prevalence of such chronic diseases as cardiovascular disease (CVD) is rising. By the year 2020, the country is likely to face 100 million heart patients, or nearly 60 per cent of the world's cases of heart disease. Ms. Aggarwalís Ph.D thesis is devoted to development of a behavioral and lifestyle management counseling module for helping premature CVD patients.

Recognizing that the past two decades have witnessed a substantial increase in the prevalence of over weight and obesity in children worldwide, and that obesity does not seem to spare populations in developing countries, Ms. Bhatia has directed her M.Sc thesis to investigating the prevalence of overweight and obesity in early preschool aged children in New Delhi. She will screen a sample of overweight and obese children using anthropometric measurements, study their dietary behavior and physical activity patterns, and other associated factors leading to such a condition in the children.

Shefali Sharmaís M. Sc. thesis is aimed at assessment of nutritional status of the girls aged 7 to 12 who have been residing in a children's home in New Delhi for at least one year. This includes quantifying dietary intake, taking anthropometric measurements, and conducting a clinical examination for signs of nutritional deficiency.

Scholarship recipients for 2004 were Anju Sood, Pariksha Bathla and Vandana Garg.

Anju Sood, a Ph. D graduate from Lady Irwin investigated secular trends in growth among 794 affluent adolescent girls in Bangalore. She has been a lecturer at Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women at the University of Delhi, and a research associate in the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Lady Irwin. Her interests include teaching, dietary counseling and painting.

Pariksha Bathla recently completed her master’s degree at Lady Irwin. The focus of her thesis is a goal-oriented intervention program enabling adolescents to improve their eating and fitness choices. She is studying a sample of 74 adolescents from the Ramjas Public School in New Delhi. Among the approaches Bathla used were an “Eat healthy-Stay fit” game, a recipe development competition and an “Eat health-Stay fit” quiz.

Vandana Garg completed her master’s degree in 2005, with a thesis focus on household fat consumption practices and assessment of sesame and soyabean oils as cooking media. She has conducted seminars at Lady Irwin and visited the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program at Flint County, Michigan in 2004. Recipient of several academic awards, Garg’s seeks a position that will utilize strong operational and communication skills to enhance productivity.

Nidhi Goyal, Suman Anand and Anshu Kumra were the 2003 scholarship recipients, and the program’s first awardees. Four scholarships were awarded in 2004.

Scheduled to complete her master’s degree in 2004, Ms. Goyal has developed and conducted nutrition education programs for pregnant women of mobile crèches using a variety of communication skills. She has also performed extensive fieldwork in maternal and child health, and child welfare, and has completed a six-week curriculum in medicine at the Department of Social & Preventive Medicine at S.N. Medical College, Agra.

Gender- and age-related differences in the nutritional status of affluent elderly individuals are the focus of Ms. Anand’s master’s dissertation. During the course of her studies, Ms. Anand completed 260 hours of fieldwork in the villages of Agra to evaluate a World Health Organization-funded Maternal Child Health and Nutrition initiative; she also worked on a project at an Anganwadi center.

Ms. Kumra completed her master’s degree at Lady Irwin in 1982. Prior to returning for her Ph.D., she was a lecturer in home science at St. Bede's College, Shimla, and spent two years at the Food Craft Institute in Chandigarh in the Department of Bakery and Confectionery. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled: "Food Security in Urban Slums and the Impact of Relocation — A Comparative Study."

Established in 1932, Lady Irwin College is a pioneer institution for nutrition studies in India. Affiliated with the University of Delhi, it is recognized for imparting quality higher education to women through undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate courses in multidimensional disciplines. Lady Irwin is affiliated with the University of Delhi and is funded by the University Grant Commission.


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