An Economic Analysis of the Determinants of Health and Nutritional Status of Children in Punjab
Provision of better health and nutrition are fundamental goals of most developing countries. These goals are not just predecessors of growth but are important achievements in themselves. Given that human capital is strongly affected by the health and nutritional status of the labor force, countries which are on the path to increasing productivity and economic development cannot succeed without undertaking the real challenge of physical and mental wellbeing of its population. Pakistan is also a signatory of the Millennium Development Goals and much of its health policy revolves around achieving the objectives laid out by the United Nations mandate. With slowing growth rates, rising food prices and unstable social conditions, the country is struggling through its journey to achieving most of the goals. Although, there has been progress in curbing absolute poverty, there are other dimensions of poverty which must also be considered. Eradication of hunger is also part of the MDGs, and the target is to halve the proportion of underweight children under 5 years and population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption. Unfortunately, both these indicators worsened during the period of 1990-91 to 2001-02. The proportion of underweight children under 5 rose from 40 to 41.5% and that of population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption increased from 25 to 30%. Household surveys in Pakistan show some progress in the area of child health during the period 1991-2007, with an increase in the coverage of immunization and delivery of babies in health facilities rose. Despite these improvements, Pakistan’s progress in achieving the MDG targets of infant and child mortality, life expectancy, and other health outcomes is highly unsatisfactory and behind that of other countries in the region. In this context, this study will identify the key determinants of child health in the Punjab province of Pakistan, using the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2007-08. The MICS 2007-08 is a cross-sectional micro-level dataset and consists of household surveys of over 90,000 households and 70 indicators at the Tehsil level. It comprises of comprehensive sections on child and maternal health and is therefore, ideal for a study on health.