Article | November 19, 2013, 7.40 PM IST
For India's children, the journey from a crib to grave is indeed very short. A Save the Children study has reported that over three lakh babies die on their first-day and overall, 876,200 babies die, annually.
The numbers look grim for Indian mothers as well. According to the Government of India, the country records 56,000 maternal deaths, every year. This is the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, according to the study.
Statistically, India stands at the top of the 10 countries that attribute 65 percent of newborn deaths in the world. The infant mortality rate (IMR) in India is 44 per 1000 live births as per the government's 2011 Sample Registration System (SRS). This statistic is the number of deaths for every 1,000 live births in the first year of the baby's life. IMR determines the socio-economic status of a state/country besides determining the loss of lives annually.
India is also ranked 126 out of 180 countries for its Maternal Mortality Rate (which measures the number of women aged 15-49 years dying due to maternal causes per 1,00,000 live births), in the latest Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group conducted by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and World Bank.
UNICEF states that strategic interventions in India are missing or inadequately implemented. According to its 'State of the World’s Children', around 75 percent of newborn mortality can be reduced by improving access to affordable medicines and timely life-saving interventions. Expanded neonatal and intrapartum care, case management of diarrhoea and pneumonia, and addition of new vaccines to immunisation programmes could substantially reduce child deaths in India.
Besides these, basic and inexpensive care has to reach ignored territories in India. Innovation in technology that makes advanced solutions inexpensive has been saving the day for many developing countries. Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia have shown success in curbing IMR by implementing affordable and effective solutions. There are a few case studies that are testimony to the fact that, affordable technology can perhaps increase India’s mothers’ and babies’ chances of survival.
Case studies, closer to home
In Tamil Nadu, several hospitals, nursing homes and clinics across 50 towns have been introduced to GE's high-end technology as a part of its 'Mission Healthier India' which was aimed at creating awareness amongst public through technology. It covered 5000 clinicians and 1,00,000 people in a two month tour of the state. “We develop technologies that reduce the cost of healthcare without compromising the quality of healthcare delivery,” said a GE representative during the launch of the campaign in Coimbatore. Similar tours are likely to take place in other states.
Meanwhile, at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre (AIMS), Cochin, where most of its patients are full term or preterm infants with congenital heart defects, GE’s ventilators and other sophisticated technology are at work. These babies are referred to AIMS from other health care centers and some of them come already infected while some among these are very low birth weight babies which is a testimony to the fact that government run PHCs are ill-equipped with life-saving equipments.
Overall, GE’s MIC comprises rural appropriate technologies for neonatal care which also include infant warmers, phototherapy units and incubators and fetal monitoring devices. With such installations in primary healthcare centers for urban and rural poor, nearly 309,000 babies can be saved annually.
Can India meet MDG-4?
India has a long way to go before it can make itself a safer home for babies. Though there has been progress and MMR and IMR have fallen, the improvement has been very slow.
A UNICEF study has predicted that although the IMR in India has been lower than the previous decade, the country is highly unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) - 4. The MDG 4 set by United Nations aims to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds and MMR by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015.
The onus to chart out an agenda and scout for technology partners that can help India meet its goal now becomes even more urgent and imperative.
In this scenario, working towards bringing down IMR and MMR will occur when all stakeholders, experts, researchers, authorities concerned – public and private, work together.
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Tags : healthcare delivery, healthcare centers, healthcare, fetal monitoring devices, technology partners, congenital heart defects, pneumonia, phototherapy, World Bank, Government of India, United Nations