Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

What the latest NFHS data says about the New Welfarism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- What findings of NHFS-5 imply


The second and final phase of NFHS-5 was released which covered 11 states (including Uttar Pradesh (UP), Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Jharkhand, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh) and about 49 per cent of the population.

Major findings

[1] Success of New Welfarism

  • Figure one plots household access to improved sanitation, cooking gas and bank accounts used by women.
  • The improvements are as striking as they were based on the performance of the phase 1 states.
  • In all cases, access has increased significantly, although claims of India being 100 per cent open defecation-free still remain excessive.

[2] Child-related outcomes

  • India-wide, stunting has declined although the pace of improvement has slowed down post-2015 compared with the previous decade.
  • For example, stunting improved by 0.7 percentage points per year between 2005 and 2015 compared to 0.3 percentage points between 2015 and 2021.
  • On diarrhoea too, adding the new data reverses the earlier finding.
  • However, on anaemia and acute respiratory illness, there seems to have been deterioration.
  • The new child stunting results are significant but also surprising because of the sharply divergent outcomes between the phase 1 and phase 2 states.
  •  The interesting pattern is that nearly all the phase 2 states show large improvements, whereas most of the phase 1 states exhibited a deterioration in performance.

[3] Catch up by the laggard states

  • If the new child stunting numbers are right, a different picture of India emerges.
  • Apparently, Madhya Pradesh now has fewer stunted children than Gujarat; Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are almost at par with Gujarat; Chhattisgarh fares better than Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra; and Rajasthan and Odisha fare better than Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh!
  • On child stunting, the old BIMARU states (excepting Bihar) are no longer the laggards; the laggards are Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, and to a lesser extent, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Indeed, the decline in stunting achieved by the poorer states such as UP, MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would be all the more remarkable given the overall weakness in the economy between 2015 and 2021.


When commentators speak of two Indias, it is now important to ask: Which ones and on what metrics.

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