Household air pollution remains an important risk factor for childhood pneumonia in India, a report by Save the Children, a non governmental organisation working for children welfare said on Tuesday. Stating that Pneumonia continues to remain a public health problem in India, the report titled “Situation Analysis of Pneumonia in India" stated there is a gross under-reporting of pneumonia cases both in public and private healthcare domain.
The report encapsulates results from an in-depth assessment of five high-burden states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, mapping the challenges and calling for action.
“There is a need to improve the quality of care at birth, which involves equipping ASHA workers and mobilizing mothers to healthcare centres. Health & Wellness centre is a new entrant in the health system, which will help reaching out to grassroot level. Government has set really ambitious targets to tackle childhood maternity and is totally committed for this cause," said Ajay Khera, Commissioner, Maternal & Child Health, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, who released the report.
According to the report, the overall prevalence rate of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) among Under-5 children in the 5 study states was at 13.4%, while Bihar recorded the highest prevalence (18.2%), followed by U.P. (15.9%), Jharkhand (12.8%), Madhya Pradesh (11.6%), and Rajasthan recording the lowest prevalence (8.4%).
Explaining the impact of indoor air pollution on children’s health, the report said that children from households using improved fuel for cooking LPG had a preventive effect Study reveals 2% lower probability of reporting ARI in households using clean fuels for cooking.
The study found that awareness on signs of pneumonia and importance of early care seeking was poor. “This is a critical gap that requires focussed attention..Almost 81% caregivers preferred private sector for availing medical treatment for pneumonia in children," the report said.
The report also highlighted that ARI prevalence was 4% higher among chidren, wherein breastfeeding was initiated later than one hour after childbirth and 2.4% higher in cases where they were exclusively breast fed for less than 6 months.
“Pneumonia is still the leading cause of death in children and accounts for 14.3% of under 5 deaths in India, which translates to 1 child death every 4 minutes. India contributes to 17% of global under 5 pneumonia deaths.Addressing childhood Pneumonia is one of the three centenary commitments of Save the Children and we are committed to end preventable pneumonia deaths," said Anindit Roy Chowdhary, Director, Programmes, Save the Children .
The report has recommended policy recommendations vital for tacking pneumonia in the country. Save the Children and UNICEF have entered into a partnership at global level in the fight against childhood pneumonia. Save the Children, India is also working with Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in the roll out of the recently launched SAANS campaign on Pneumonia. The organisation has also recently collaborated with Philips India to develop and prove low-cost innovative approaches for prevention, diagnosis and management of Childhood Pneumonia.