Health project in India saved many mothers and children

November 2, 2012
Mobile health care centers were one of the components of a four-year health care project in one of India's poorest districts. Infant mortality fell by half, and the number of women who died from complications during pregnancy and childbirth decreased by three-quarters. Credit: Siw Alehagen/AnnaKarin Johansson/Linkoping University.

Infant mortality has fallen by half, and the number of women who died from complications during pregnancy and childbirth by three-quarters. This is the result of a four-year health care project in one of India's poorest districts.

"We're overjoyed that mortality could be reduced with relatively simple means like mobile health care centres. It was successful because and new mothers got the opportunity to actively seek care."

So says Siw Alehagen who, together with AnnaKarin Johansson, Orvar Finnström and Göran Hermansson – all of Linköping University in Sweden – and their Indian colleagues, is publishing the results in the journal Rural and Remote Health.

Alehagen, with a background as a midwife, and Johansson, a district nurse, are both researchers in nursing science. In 2004, the Indian organisation Pravara Medical Trust, the Östergötland County Council and the Faculty of Health Sciences received funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to start an in the Ahmednagar district in central India.

The study covers 235 villages where more than half the inhabitants live under the Indian of 1,000 rupees (equal to 18.50 USD) a month, and where health care is at an extremely low level.

"In the most remote districts, there is neither access to nor demand for maternal and paediatric health care," Johansson says.

Three out of every four births took place in the woman's home. Almost five of every 1,000 pregnant women died in connection with childbirth, and 80 of every 1,000 newborns died before their first birthday. Over half of the children under five were malnourished.

The project was inspired by the Swedish model, with nurse-based maternal and paediatric clinics; the goal was to open nine permanent and five mobile primary care centres that could serve the most isolated villages. 385 Indian nurses, physicians, laboratory workers and social workers were employed, as were 235 volunteer women as local contacts.

The effect was unmistakable. The lines soon began coiling around the centres. There were not only pregnant women and mothers of small children; other villagers with diverse complaints also came. An important success factor was changing attitudes towards patients, which traditionally was strictly authoritarian. Some of them said "I came here because I heard you were nice to the patients."

In only a few years, the attitude towards maternal and paediatric has changed. In 2009, 63% of newborns came to their first check-up before the age of 16 weeks, as compared to 38% three years earlier. Over the same period, the proportion of hospital births climbed from 40% to 74%. The proportion of mothers who died in connection with pregnancy and childbirth fell to barely 1 in 1,000; stayed at 43 in 1,000.

The project has now been concluded. But despite a shortage of secure financing, three of the mobile clinics are still rolling; the permanent primary care clinics that were established are continuing their activities.

Explore further: Maternal deaths cut by half: UN

More information: Nurse-based antenatal and child health care in rural India, implementation and effects – an Indian-Swedish collaboration by SA Alehagen, O Finnström, GV Hermansson, KV Somasundaram, VB Bangal, A Patil, P Chandekar and AK Johansson. Rural and Remote Health 12:2140 (online) 2012.

Related Stories

Maternal deaths cut by half: UN

May 16, 2012
Better care has cut the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth by nearly half in the past two decades, but there is still a death every two minutes, according to UN figures released Wednesday.

Timing pregnancy an important health concern for women

April 11, 2012
A newly published article in the journal Nursing for Women's Health highlights the importance of a woman's ability to time her childbearing. The author asserts that contraception is a means of health promotion and women who ...

New approach to screen pregnant women for mental health disorders

May 29, 2012
A new model of care for screening and treating women around the time of childbirth for mental health disorders shows promise according to researchers from South Africa reporting in this week's PLoS Medicine as part of the ...

Mothers in peril: Urgency, frustration in discussion of maternal mortality

October 3, 2012
Every 90 seconds, a mother dies in pregnancy or of childbirth complications—a tragic statistic, but one that may drive efforts to improve health care in developing countries, experts gathered at the Harvard School of Public ...

Recommended for you

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Peppa Pig may encourage inappropriate use of primary care services

December 11, 2017
Exposure to the children's television series Peppa Pig may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of primary care and encouraging inappropriate use of services, suggests a doctor in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017
Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.