Infant mortality rate drops by one point in Tamil Nadu

The State’s IMR has been on the decreasing trend.

May 09, 2020 11:51 pm | Updated 11:53 pm IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu’s Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has dropped by one point from 16 to 15 per 1,000 live births in 2018, as per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) data.

The State’s IMR has been on the decreasing trend. From 37 per 1,000 live births in 2006, the infant mortality rate steadily declined reaching 20 per 1,000 live births in 2014.

K. Senthil Raj, mission director, National Health Mission (NHM), Tamil Nadu, said the Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU) in government hospitals played a crucial role in saving several sick babies. “There are a number of factors that have helped in reducing infant mortality in the State. Tamil Nadu has always been keen on ensuring 100% immunisation coverage of babies. Our village health nurses follow up on the health of both mother and child during their regular home visits,” he said. More strategies are being devised for further reduction in IMR, he added.

An important point to note is the reduction in neonatal deaths that has indirectly led to the decrease in IMR, according to S. Srinivasan, State nodal officer, Child Health.

“IMR takes into account deaths during neonatal and post-neonatal period (one month to 12 months of age). When we look at the admission data from SNCUs in the government hospitals, we see a significant reduction in neonatal deaths. There was a reduction in neonatal mortality from 6.8% in 2017 to 5.7% in 2018,” he said. There were 6,897 deaths among 1,01,997 admissions in 2017 and 6,368 deaths among 1,11,733 admissions in 2018, he noted.

J. Kumutha, expert advisor - Child Health, NHM-TN, said, the State has considerably reduced deaths due to birth asphyxia. “Pre-term care has improved. Antenatal care and interventions soon after birth have definitely helped. The government is now providing a medication to improve lung maturity in pre-term babies in all 73 special newborn care units. This medication improves the outcome in a pre-term baby. Similarly, medication to help in regularity of breathing is also being provided,” she said.

“We still find a rural-urban divide in the IMR. It was 18 per 1,000 live births in the rural and 12 per 1,000 live births in urban areas. This is an area where we have to reduce the gap. It is important to improve the care seeking behaviour among pregnant women in the rural areas,” she further said.

She said that 70% of maternal and child health care was provided by the government in Tamil Nadu. Noting that antenatal care was “good” in the State, she said, “We have 99% institutional deliveries. Still, a few women come late. We are seeing some cases of unexplained prematurity. There are instances in which women take a little leaking or bleeding lightly. We have to get a better response from parents,” she added.

In the COVID-19 setting, Dr. Kumutha said infection control measures are must. “We have been emphasising on strict hand washing both at the institution to prevent hospital-acquired infections and at home to prevent environment-related infections for the child,” she said. She highlighted the need to improve management of malformations, particularly congenital critical heart diseases, in babies.

Official sources said that a few States and Union Territories have registered a decline by two or more points and it was important for Tamil Nadu to do more for further reduction in IMR.

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