Most Indians are healthier, says govt health survey

National Family Health Survey finds child malnutrition, maternal mortality rates have declined significantly in the 13 states including in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal


A file photo of a health worker administering polio vaccination to a child in Ghaziabad. According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, at least six out of 10 children received full immunization in 12 of the 15 states and union territories. Photo: AFP
A file photo of a health worker administering polio vaccination to a child in Ghaziabad. According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, at least six out of 10 children received full immunization in 12 of the 15 states and union territories. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: A large part of India has shown substantial improvement in health of its citizens over the past decade, a new government survey says.

Results from the first phase of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 show that child malnutrition, as well as maternal mortality rates, have declined significantly in the 13 states—including the populous states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana and Tamil Nadu—and two union territories that the first phase covered.

The survey for the rest of the country is underway. NFHS-4 is the first survey to collect data from each of India’s 29 states and all seven union territories.

“Data shows that overall the situation in India has improved. Fewer children are dying as infants,” said C.K. Mishra, additional secretary with the ministry of health and family welfare.

Almost all mothers have received antenatal care for their most recent pregnancies, and an increasing number of women are receiving the recommended four or more visits by the service providers.

More and more women now give birth in healthcare facilities, and rates have more than doubled in some states in the last decade.

The highest jump has been seen in institutional deliveries. Institutional deliveries in Bihar rose three-fold—from 19.9% in 2005-06 to 63.8 % in 2014-15. Similarly, over the same period, institutional deliveries rose from 35.7% to 80.5% in Haryana and 26.2% to 80.8% in Madhya Pradesh.

Data shows that infant mortality rates (IMR) declined in all the states and union territories surveyed—ranging from a low of 10 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to a high of 51 deaths per 1000 live births in Madhya Pradesh.

While in Goa it declined from 15 in 2005-06 to 13 in 2014-15, in Madhya Pradesh, the decrease has been from 69 to 51.

At least six out of 10 children received full immunization in 12 of the 15 states and union territories. In Goa, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Puducherry, more than four-fifths of the children have been fully immunized.

Poor nutrition is less common than reported in the last round of the National Family Health Survey. Fewer children under five years of age are now found to be stunted, showing intake of improved nutrition.

In nine states and union territories, fewer than one-third of children are found short for their age.

While this reveals a distinct improvement since the previous survey, in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya, more than 40% children are still stunted.

However, the data regarding population control is puzzling.

While almost all states depict a decline in fertility rates, the survey also shows a decline in use of family planning methods.

Except in Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Bihar, all states and the union territories have achieved replacement level of fertility.

The total fertility rates, or the average number of children per woman, range from 1.2 in Sikkim to 3.4 in Bihar.

The total fertility rate represents number of children born per woman.

On the other hand, use of family planning methods has declined.

For example, in Karnataka it has decreased from 63.6 % in 2005-06 to 51.8 % in 2014-15. Fertility rates too declined from 2.1 children per woman to 1.8 children per woman during the corresponding period.

According to additional health secretary Mishra, declining fertility rates was a big achievement.

According to Alok Banerjee, member of government’s technical committee on family planning, “Institutional deliveries have increased because of cash incentives that were introduced as part of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) in 2005. All stakeholders—the pregnant woman, accredited social health activists (ASHA workers) and empanelled private doctors—are paid incentives. This has encouraged deliveries in health facilities, as against deliveries in homes.”