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    Maternal Mortality Is Declining In India

    Published on May 11, 2022

    Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

    India’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) — defined as maternal deaths per 100,000 live births — is improving, now 103, down from 254 in 2004-6, data released by the Registrar General of India reveals. In fact, thanks to strong policies, programmes, and financial backing, India has successfully reduced its MMR by almost 50% every ten years (it was nearly 400 in 1997-8 and 212 in 2007-9, before further falling to 103 in 2017-19). Nevertheless, significant interstate variations in MMR remain a cause for concern.

    MMR indicates a country’s overall health
    The MMR indicates women’s health and socio-economic status, healthcare access, and quality of the health system. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 5,400 in high-income countries, compared to 1 in 45 in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., comparatively, the MMR is 23.8. Delivery complications sometimes the result of medical negligence, in particular, are a key cause of maternal mortality. Medical negligence can also result in birth injury to the baby, such as cerebral palsy, brain damage, and cognitive impairment. In this case, a birth injury lawyer can help parents secure compensation to cover the cost of medical bills and long-term care. 

    Commitment to reducing maternal deaths 
    In 2000, India committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, which included improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. And, in 2005, the National Rural Health Mission (renamed National Health Mission, or NHM) was launched to improve reproductive, maternal, child, and adolescent health. Antenatal and postnatal care was successfully improved, while institutional deliveries were also increased. Additionally, in 2005, Janani Suraksha Yojana was set-up to provide cash transfers to low-income pregnant women, along with ambulance services and testing facilities. As a result, the number of institutional births increased from 39% in 2005 to 89% in 2019. In 2010, the government launched the Maternal Death Review to pinpoint the cause behind every maternal death and services needing improvement.

    Much progress still to be made
    Although the reduction in MMR is a positive sign, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India says drastic MMR variations across states remain a cause for concern. Seven states have a “very high” MMR over 130, and disrupted healthcare services during the pandemic have the potential to undo decades of progress. Improving healthcare, particularly in remote regions and marginalized communities across India, is key for achieving an MMR of 70 (as per the Sustainable Development Goals). “While communities need to be involved in the planning and monitoring of health services, accountability in the highest echelons of decision-making must be ensured”, says Muttreja.
    Ultimately, women’s health can’t be considered in isolation. An intersectional approach is required to tackle the social determinants of health and therefore further reduce India’s MMR. For example, by making higher education accessible and delaying the average age of marriage for girls, their status in society can be improved, which in turn positively impacts their health, Muttreja explains. 


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