Kerala has been famous as the most literate state in India. But the godly state has defeated all other states of India in saving the newborn children. This means, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Kerala has been brought down to six, which is equal to United States of America and many other developed nations in the world.
It is a time to rejoice for Kerala.
For your information, IMR is the number of children under the age of 1 who die for every 1000 born. A survey was conducted by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for 2015-16. The results were startling. Since the past decade, Kerala has been struggling to bring its IMR down from 12 to a single digit, according to Sample Registration Survey (SRS) conducted by the office of the registrar of census. In 2005-06, Kerala’s IMR was 15. Fortunately, the state managed to bring its IMR down to 6.
Let us tell you, why this is a great news for India. IMR of 6 is lower than that of many countries like Russia (8), China (9), Sri Lanka (8) and Brazil (15). To put it in perspective, if India, with a current IMR of 41 could get it down to 6, around seven lakh children would be saved each year.
The pediatricians and the public health authorities are skeptical yet overjoyed to see the new numbers.
Many people believe that the infant healthcare has improved in the recent years, but such a dramatic fall to six has startled few. The number of births are falling, so the question arises if the number of infants in the overall NFHS sample for Kerala was sufficient to measure the IMR precisely. More than 60% of the infant mortality is the neonatal mortality (death within 28 days of birth).
"There has been a focus on IMR as part of the millennium development goals, which gained momentum in the last seven to eight years even though the goals were launched in 2000. In our own hospital, we have seen neonatal mortality fall by half," says Dr Mohandas Nair, additional professor in paediatrics in Kozhikode Medical College.
Many Sick Newborn Care Units and New Born Stabilisation Units have been established in the state with the help of the central government funds. The Navjaat Sishu Suraksha Karyakram scheme by the central government trained the nurses in government as well as private hospitals.
Dr. Nair believes that these efforts could have dropped the IMR to 8 or 9 than to 6. Dr V Ramankutty, a paediatrician and public health professor of Achutha Menon Centre, in Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, says it would have been better if the NFHS had indicated a range for the value that accounts for any sample size error. "I am not saying that the IMR of 6 is impossible or wrong. If the range of IMR is 5-7 or 4-8, that would be very good, but if it is 2-12, that's nothing to be happy about. To bring down IMR from such a low level of 12, high technology capital intensive interventions are needed. I don't think that kind of investment in new born care has happened in Kerala," explained Dr Ramankutty.