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Infant deaths in India: the shortest journey on earth

March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Today’s story in the Times of India has an alarming headline on page 4. The rest of the story though has only slight links with the headline. It confuses issues and misleads readers. The story is on infant mortality in India. However, crib deaths and deaths from hospital acquired infections are two separate reasons for infant mortality and need to be investigated separately.

Infant mortality rate: total47.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 46.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 49.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Premature birth is a leading cause of infant deaths even in large cities such as Mumbai. Overall the rate is dropping but not fast enough. India’s target against the MDGs is way off the mark. When comparison is made with countries such as Nepal or even Bangladesh I wonder if it is even fair. India’s population is huge, its resources stretched and its geography a huge challenge. Having said this, it is also clear that political and to some extent even social will, has been lacking when it comes to managing infant mortality.

Being an obstreperous nation, we have parallel conversations going on in this context: should we spend our energies on ensuring fewer births or on ensuring all infants survive after birth? Who asked people to have children anyway. Then there is the relentless rise in adult chronic conditions so should the limited resources be spent here, or in reducing the birth of children who are likely to add to this burden, or in saving the lives of those who are being born and die because of neglect and preventable causes? Full immunization of children is a goal worth protecting because this protects the future. Genetic disabilities: should these be discouraged through genetic testing? These survivors place a different kind of burden on families and public health resources.  The arguments for and against go on.

I wonder if our slow achievement rate on infant deaths isn’t also influenced by our cultural karmic mindset.

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From → General Health

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