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“Reducing infant mortality rate, still a challenge in urban areas”

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DISCUSSION: S. Elango, Director of Public Health, addressing health officials in Madurai.
DISCUSSION: S. Elango, Director of Public Health, addressing health officials in Madurai.

Special Correspondent

40 per cent death took place in GHs/medical college hospitals

29 per cent of total number of deaths happened at home

“Urban health infrastructure needs to be strengthened”

MADURAI: Forty per cent of infant deaths in the State during 2008-09 accounting to 6,098 deaths had taken place in Government Hospitals/Medical College hospitals.

According to statistics compiled by the Health Department, 29 per cent of the total number of infant deaths happened at home and this figure stood at 4,415.

The infant deaths recorded at private hospitals during the period were 3,137 which worked out to 20.6 per cent.

Making a presentation on the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) scenario here on Thursday, S.Elango, Director of Public Health, said that the decline of IMR in urban areas of the State is found to be slow and called for implementing better strategies in Government Hospitals.

The statistics showed that 855 infants died during transit and this was 5.6 per cent of the total number of 15,231 deaths reported in Tamil Nadu during 2008-09. Infant deaths at Primary Health Centres/maternity centres accounted to 4.3 per cent and the number was 650 deaths.

“The current level of IMR is 31 deaths per 1,000 and the target for Tamil Nadu is to bring it down to 20 by the end of Eleventh Five Year Plan period. New strategies have to be worked out to achieve this,” he told the Deputy Directors.

Dr. Elango said the perception that infant deaths are more in rural areas as compared to urban areas seemed to be wrong as per the current statistics.

“The urban-rural gap is narrowed and in fact the current trend showed that urban health infrastructure needs to be strengthened. The Tamil Nadu Health Department has been able to tackle all preventable causes of infant deaths like diarrhoea and pneumonia. Now is the time to focus on Low Birth Weight and premature deliveries which are also major causes of infant deaths,” the Director observed.

In 1971, the Infant Mortality Rate in Tamil Nadu stood at 111 per 1,000 births and it was reduced to 91 by the year 1981. In 1991, the number was 57 and it was further brought down to 31 last year.

Important causes of infant deaths in the State are birth asphyxia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, other congenital anomalies and hypothermia, Dr. Elango had said. Saradha Suresh, Director, Institute of Child Health (Egmore) in Chennai, Joint Directors/Deputy Directors and statistics officers in health department were among those who took part in the Infant Deaths Verbal Autopsy audit meeting.

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