The nature of physical growth and development of children depends primarily upon the genetic endowments, nutritional status, psychosocial attitude and surrounding physical environmental conditions. School going children are the most important segment of the society who are affected by under- and mal-nutrition. Good nutrition is an indispensable component of healthy life. Tribal children studying in Ashram schools can be taken as representatives of the predominant tribes of the area. This study was aimed at evaluating the health profile in relation to growth, development and nutrition of a randomly selected cross section of 1038 Ashram school children aged six through 15 years in the state of Orissa. Following the standard methodology, it was noticed that nutritional complications are compounded due to ignorance, bad food habits, food fads, and poverty. About 71% of the Ashram school children showed mild to moderate anemia. According to different grades of malnutrition, the frequency of grade III malnutrition was very low in Ashram-school boys (1.4%) and girls (3.5%), with an average of 2.3%. The grade I as well as grade II malnutrition was also higher in girls (grade II =24.3%; grade I= 37.6%) as compared to boys (grade II=16.7%; grade I=31.5%) with an average of 19.9% and 34.1%, respectively for grade II and grade I malnutrition. There was a consistent pattern of increase in height and weight in the year six through fifteen of age, showing that height and weight of the Ashram school children increases with the corresponding advancement of age in both boys and girls. In general, the girls were shorter and lighter in weight than the boys. This pattern is consistent in the present study of Ashram school children in Orissa. It has been observed that apart from the genetic potential, the intra-uterine environment, mother’s nutritional status before, during and post pregnancy, and neonatal nutrition and associated traditional behavior drastically influence the growth and development of individuals. Adequate physical and mental fitness of parents is a marker for physical and mental fitness of the progeny. Heritable genetic factors are responsible for the ability to detect and identify smell and taste of food items of liking and disliking and for the fussy behavior toward different foods in children
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