Is India failing its children? Or progressing in providing them with better healthcare?A recent study published in the healthcare journal, The Lancet Global Health, may provide the answer. In an analysis of state-level data on the cause of death among children under five for the year 2015 it was discovered that India had more deaths in 2015 than any other nation.
Despite these somewhat grave results, India has been gradually reducing its burden of child mortality. In the years between 2000-2015 India made great progress in reducing under-five mortality from 2.5 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2015. However, there was a huge disparity between death rates between rich and poor states according to the study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Goa recorded 9.7 under-five deaths per 1,000 births as compared to Assam’s 73.1. Astonishingly this disparity between north and south India has increased from a ratio of 1.4 in 2000 to 2.1 in 2015.
57.9 percent of deaths among Indian children under five in 2015 occurred in the first four weeks of life – the neonatal period. The leading cause of death for children under five was preterm birth complications, which accounted for 27.5 percent of the mortality total. Second on the list was pneumonia, accounting for 15.9 percent of deaths. Infectious illnesses were more often among the top causes in the poorer, high-mortality states.
To accelerate India’s progress against child mortality, the study recommends more extensive use of childhood vaccinations, particularly against pneumonia- and meningitis-causing Streptococcus and H. influenzae bacteria. They also advocate a scaling up of standard care strategies for newborns, including “kangaroo care” in which the baby rests against the mother’s skin, thermal care to reduce hypothermia and early initiation of breastfeeding.