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Kerala Aims to Keep Infant Mortality Rate below Five: Health Minister

In Health
February 25, 2021

Kerala Health and Family Welfare Minister K. K. Shailaja has said that the State Government is aiming to keep the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) below five from the present seven, as part of strategies to further reduce IMR and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR).

“In line with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have also declared our goals on MMR and IMR reduction. When we examined in 2016, the IMR in Kerala was 12 out of 1000 live births. But we declared our aim to reduce it to a single digit. The IMR got reduced to seven in 2019 and now the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows that it will go below five,” Shailaja said last evening while addressing the international health webinar series, ‘Kerala Health: Making the SDG a Reality,’ organized by the Department of Health and Family Welfare.

Speaking on “IMR Reduction-Kerala Experience” as the two-day second phase of the webinar opened on Wednesday, the Minister said the state has strengthened the delivery points, which is crucial in achieving the targets, by adhering to the Centre’s labour room and quality improvement initiative, ‘LaQshya,’ standards.

At a panel discussion on “Accelerating the reduction of Maternal & Infant Mortality in developing countries, “ Prof Richard Cash, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, USA, said Kerala will be able to achieve greater lowering of its indices if it concentrated on factors outside the low-cost primary healthcare (PHC) interventions such as a slow, steady economic, social and political development.

Prof Cash said the state should be justly proud that its numbers are comparable with the US and UK, but it is not to the west that Kerala should look up to. “If Kerala is to take lessons it is to the east, Thailand and Malaysia, or south, Sri Lanka, that it should turn to,” he said.

Dr Vivek Virendra Singh, Health Specialist, UNICEF India, said in order to achieve the SDG goals by 2030 it was necessary to mobilise everyone, everywhere, demand urgency and ambitions from them and design new innovations and solutions.

Even as Kerala’s health system is much advanced compared to the rest of India, the state needs to recruit a variety of specialists like ophthalmologists and hearing experts, reinvent the system by integrating rehabilitation with child delivery service, give them closer access to homes and make the spaces baby-friendly, said Dr Rakhi Dandona, Professor at Public Health Foundation of India.

To further reduce mortality, she said, Kerala can initiate in a big way, research on critical care of at-risk new-borns, epigenetics, midwifery, neonatal nursing, neurodevelopmental follow-up, pregnancy-related diabetes and obesity, neonatal growth and development, and genesis maternal foetal medicine.

Dr Ahmed Reza Hosseinpoor, Health Equity Monitoring Lead with WHO, said health inequalities in India stand much lower compared to its neighbours in the subcontinent. A software application called HEAT (Health Equity Assessment Toolkit) developed at the UN agency also facilitates the assessment of health inequalities within a country, he said.

At an earlier session on “MMR Reduction-Kerala Experience,” Dr V.P. Paily, State Coordinator, Confidential Review of Maternal Death and Senior Consultant, Rajagiri Hospital, Aluva, said that factors like high female literacy, high institutional delivery rates, large number of health centres of various standards, easy transport system and people’s willingness to spend more for health and education have helped the state to achieve low MMR.

Dr S.S. Kamath, Former President, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Dr Remla Beevi, Director Medical Education, Dr Saritha. R.L, Director, Health Services, Dr Krishnaveni, RCH Officer, Kollam and Dr Srihari. M, State Nodal Officer, Child Health, NHM, also shared their insights and suggestions.