Public health care should not be at the mercy of market forces, says ESL Narasimhan

Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan has said that further breakthrough in bringing down the population growth rate in the country can be achieved only by controlling crucial community health indicators such as Neonatal Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate.

The solution lies in increasing public expenditure on sectors such as health, education and housing.

Addressing a conference on ‘Beyond the rhetoric, solutions towards neonatal survival’, organised by Nice Foundation in association with ‘Effective Intervention’ from the London School of Economics, Mr. Narasimhan sought to emphasise that diminished role for public health care was not advisable, as it would place public health at the mercy of market forces.

He said the initiative by Nice Foundation in Mahabubnagar to improve neonatal survival rates should be formalised and adopted in other districts, too. However, the situation on this front is not as bad as being projected, though the coverage of public health facilities in tribal pockets is not good, he maintained.

The ‘108’ service has been a successful model, and modern carriages are introduced in tribal areas. Every pregnant woman’s data is collected for neonatal care, and vaccinations are being monitored.

NICE Foundation CEO M. Padmanabh Reddy explained the initiative, ‘Community Health and Medical Provision Impact on Neonates’, in Mahabubnagar district, with funding from Effective Intervention.

As part of the initiative, selected group of pregnant women are constantly monitored by public health professionals, and high-risk pregnancies are referred to secondary and tertiary medical care.

Also, measures are taken to improve awareness. The study was first conducted at Paderu in Visakhapatnam and replicated with minor changes in four divisions of Mahabubnagar between 2008 and 2011, Dr. Reddy said.

When compared with villages without any intervention, the results in those under intervention have shown 25 per cent fall in death of newborns, he claimed. Earlier, Effective Intervention executive chairperson Peter Boone put the issue in perspective and said the intervention in Mahabubnagar had global relevance, as it was cost-effective, and recommended it for pockets where change was slow.

Coupled with another initiative, ‘Support to Rural India’s Public Education System’, the cost on each village will amount to Rs. 1.5 lakh (2,500 USD), he said.

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