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India Health Survey heralds good news in women and child health!

Posted:  Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Millennium Development Goals results are out and they cast doubts on maternal and child health status in India. However, a recent Rapid Survey on Children by the ministry of women and child development and supported by the U.N.'s children's agency, UNICEF heralds news worth a cheer. The Survey has found that due to the efforts by community workers, women and child health parameters have improved on many counts. This could be good global examples say aid workers.

The Rapid Survey on Children is the first national survey on child and maternal health in India in the last decade. The survey gathered data from more than 100,000 households across urban and rural India. The following were the results gleaned from the survey:

• There was a reduction in the number of stunted children below the age of 5 years. In comparison to 48% reported in 2005/6, the numbers sank to 39% by 2013/14

• The number of women marrying at age younger than 18 years declined to 30% in 2013/14 as compared to 47% in 2005/6.

• The number of institutionalised births increased from 41% reported in 2005/6 to 79% in 2013/14

• Exclusive breastfeeding of children under 6 months increased from 46% to 65%

• The number of children fully immunised by the age of 2 increased to 65%.

“The surprise is that progress is very good, but at the same time the rates are still high. I think it will have an implication not just for India, but also globally," said Saba Mebrahtu, chief of child development and nutrition at UNICEF India.

The report also highlighted some areas which have not seen much improvement. The indicators of child malnutrition and child marriage were still high and the nutritional status of adolescent girls showed no progress. Forty four percent of adolescent girls aged 15–18 years reported having a low body mass index, a statistic which has remained unchanged for a decade now. However, the Government of India is yet to verify this report considering that other surveys conducted in the same time range seemed to throw up conflicting results.

Nonetheless, some of the government’s efforts are indeed commendable. In the past decade, the government has introduced "ASHAs", trained female health workers in villages, who conduct pre- and post-natal visits supporting and advising expectant and new mothers. Not just that, the government also provides free travel to and from institutions for pregnant women and sick children. With efficient management of these efforts, India is sure to improve the status of maternal and child health.

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