The government, at the Central and State level, uses a multipronged approach to deal with neonatal issues. The programmes funded by National Rural Health Mission are carried out in Tamil Nadu by State Rural Health Society.

While the rest of the country still faces an Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 48 deaths per 1000 live births, Tamil Nadu’s IMR is 24 per 1000, according to J.Kumuda, secretary, Tamil Nadu Chapter, National Neonatology Forum (NNF).

Though four points below the IMR prescribed by United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (to be achieved by 2015), the Tamil Nadu chapter of NNF hopes to spread awareness about newborn care and bring about uniformity in treatment given by public and private medical centres.

To this effect, NNF Tamil Nadu conducted a two-day conference, over the weekend, on neonatology. As the branch focuses on babies that are 0 to 28 days old, the conference included practical workshops for staff nurses, paediatricians and obstetricians. Thirty-five speakers addressed issues like emergency interventions required by high risk mothers at the time of delivery and the various signs an outpatient doctor must look out for while treating newborns among others.

Among the 24 babies that die per 1000 live births in Tamil Nadu, 70 per cent die within a month, points out Dr. Kumuda. The neonatal mortality rate of Tamil Nadu is 17 per 1000, while it is 32 per 1000 at national level. “Birth Asphyxia or breathing problems at the time of birth; low birth weight (pegged at lesser than 2500 grams); sepsis or fatal infections and congenital malformations that jeopardise the newborn’s life are the most common causes,” explains Dr.Kumuda.

Multipronged approach

The government, at the Central and State level, uses a multipronged approach to deal with neonatal issues. The programmes funded by National Rural Health Mission are carried out in Tamil Nadu by State Rural Health Society. “The programmes are targeted at neonatal brought to Primary Health Centres (PHCs), taluk or district hospitals and medical college hospitals, with each centre providing specific care to the newborns as well as the mothers,” says Dr.Kumuda. PHCs also work towards increasing institutional births and 98 per cent of births in Tamil Nadu occur in hospitals, 65 per cent of which occur in government institutions, according to her.

“While there are six 108 ambulances dedicated for neonatal care (in Chennai), each of the 29 districts will soon be given one ambulance for neonatals, according to the doctor. These ambulances will be equipped with ventilators, incubators, equipment to administer IV fluids on transit and an emergency technician who has been trained in neonatal care.”