Gujarat: Doctors plan study to reduce high infant mortality rate in tribal areas

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In a bid to remove the lacunas that attribute to the considerably high infant mortality rate (IMR) in tribal districts of the state, community medicine departments of four medical colleges in Gujarat have planned a study to ascertain the home-based newborn care practices prevalent in these districts. The study will also focus on removing the lacunas in these practices that directly or indirectly are connected to infant deaths.

The study, being funded by UNICEF, will be carried out by the community medicine departments of BJ Medical College, Ahmedabad; GMERS Medical College, Gotri; GMERS Medical College, Sola; and Baroda Medical College, Vadodara, through their medical students and ASHA workers.

According to Rajesh Mehta, head of the community medicine department at GMERS Medical College, Sola, hypoxia, hypoglycemia, and hypothermia are three major reasons behind infant deaths.

Notably, hypoxia is an absence of enough oxygen in the tissues to sustain bodily functions, hypoglycemia is low blood sugar which is the body’s main source of energy, and hypothermia is a condition when the body loses heat faster than it can produce results in dangerously low body temperature.

Mehta told that the study will be carried out in the two tribal districts of Dahod and Narmada. “The focus of the study will be to ascertain the efficacy of home-based newborn care prevalent in the local population, especially tribals, and to chalk out a strategy for removing the lacunas in them. It is essential to assess the prevalent practices of newborn care so that the mistakes and lacunas can be removed in order to reduce IMR in these districts,” he said.

While age up to a year is considered as an infant, the medical practitioner said 50-70 per cent of deaths take place within one month of birth. Out of it, 50-70 per cent deaths take place in the first week. Similarly, out of the infant deaths that take place within one week, 50-70 per cent of the deaths take place on the first day itself.

According to the Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin of May 2019 for the year 2017, Gujarat has an IMR of 30 per 1,000 live births. However, there is a considerable difference in the IMR figures of rural and urban Gujarat. While IMR in urban Gujarat is 22, it is 36 for rural areas. The average IMR of the country is 33 per 1,000 live births.