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India’s infant mortality rate declines 8% in 2016

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-09-2017 Neetu Chandra Sharma

India notched up an 8% decline in the infant mortality rate (IMR) in 2016 from a year ago, an improvement aided by a higher number of institutional deliveries and campaigns to promote breastfeeding and immunization.

IMR declined to 34 per 1,000 live births last year from 37 per 1,000 live births in 2015, according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, released by the Office of the Registrar General on Friday.

The bulletin said the birth cohort—babies born during the year—had come down to below 25 million for the first time.

“India has registered 90,000 fewer infant deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015,” the bulletin said, adding that the total number of estimated infant deaths had declined to 840,000 in 2016 from 930,000 in 2015.

IMR declined in 29 states and Union territories, was stable in two states and increased in five states and Union territories. The highest decline of 7 points was reported by Chandigarh and the highest increase of 6 points was reported by Arunachal Pradesh, the bulletin said.

“A major reason for this achievement is the increase in number of institutional deliveries. In 2005, only 38% deliveries were taking place in hospitals; but now, more than 79.8% are institutional deliveries,” said Ajay Khera, public health specialist and deputy commissioner in-charge (child and adolescent health), ministry of health and family welfare. “We have promoted breastfeeding and immunization services widely; that helped in achieving these figures.”

IMR increased by 4 points in Tripura and Uttarakhand; 2 points in Manipur and 1 point in Daman and Diu. Among the so-called empowered action group (EAG) states, which lag behind in the demographic transition and have the highest IMRs, Bihar reported a decline of 4 points; Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand 3 points; and Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan 2 points.

“The gender difference between female and male IMR has also reduced to less than 10 points. Earlier it used to be above 20 points. There has been a gradual change in social systems such as delayed marriages, thereby lesser adolescent pregnancies, and economic status of people with time that has also contributed to progress in health systems,” said Khera.

The government identified and targeted 184 districts with the worst IMR to bring about an improvement, he said. Free health services for pregnant women and newborns also helped.

The highest IMR in 2016 was reported in Madhya Pradesh (47) followed by Assam and Odisha (44), Uttar Pradesh (43) and Rajasthan (41).

The lowest IMR was reported by Goa (8) followed by Kerala and Puducherry (10). Rural IMR (38) was 15 points higher than the urban IMR (23).

In comparison to 2015, the rural-urban difference narrowed by one point (16 to 15). The rural IMR declined by 3 points (41 to 38).

“The results signify that the strategic approach of the ministry has started yielding dividends and the efforts of focusing on low-performing states is paying off,” a statement by the ministry of health and family welfare said.

It attributed the improvement to countrywide efforts to expand health services coverage, including reproductive, maternal and newborn health services.

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