India is stepping up to strengthen its maternal health through comprehensive national programs that address “Health and Social inequities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Under-Nourishment continues to adversely affect the majority of women and her children in India. An undernourished mother unavoidably gives birth to a low birth weight baby. Due to economic and social agony, most women continue to work to earn a living, right up to the last days of pregnancy. ‘Anaemia’ is one of the most common conditions among Indian women and can result in maternal mortality, weakness, diminished physical and mental capacity, perinatal mortality, premature delivery, low birth weight, and impaired cognitive performance, motor development, and academic achievement in the children.
WHO says India has made decent progress in recent years in reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 79%. Presently, India’s MMR is below the Millennium Development Goal target and puts the country on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) objective of an MMR below 70 by 2030.
Currently, the Government is emphasizing on improving the convergence of relevant ministries and devising national programs for better maternal health.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare–distributes iron, calcium and folic acid tablets, gives immunization, supplies bed nets (in malaria-prone areas), offers counseling to pregnant women as part of antenatal care services. The Ministry has made provisions for supplementary food as micronutrient-fortified food and energy-dense ration for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. In the past, the nutrition strategy was food-centric, eventually, the relevant Ministries of Health and Women and Child Development have turned the focus on improving the nutritional aspects of maternal nutrition.
Many programs are being implemented by the Central and the State government that are producing excellent results in maternal health.
The Vital Government Programs are the –
Janani Suraksha Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana; Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram; Wage Compensation Scheme for Pregnant Women; Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation, and Poshan Abhiyaan.
- Poshan Abhiyaan-the Prime Minister’s holistic nutrition program is a mission with the vision to ensure the attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.
- Janani Suraksha Yojana-is a safe motherhood program that provides cash assistance for delivery care, under the National Health Mission, which aims to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana-is a program that provides a cash incentive for pregnant women and lactating mothers as partial wage compensation for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition practices.
- The Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram-has benefitted pregnant women to obtain free and cashless services to pregnant women, including regular deliveries and sick new-born in Government health institutions in both rural & urban areas.
- The Weekly- Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation program aims to reduce the prevalence and incidence of anemia amongst adolescent girls. The availability of iron and folic acid tablets need to be ensured for a successful administration.
- The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram-aims to cater to the health needs of adolescents. The key drivers of the program are community-based interventions like facility-based counseling, social and behavior change communication and strengthening of adolescent-friendly health clinics.
- The Village Health and Nutrition Days–are organized to create awareness among pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children. It also encourages them for antenatal check-ups, institutional deliveries, good breastfeeding practices, family planning, immunization, menstrual hygiene, etc. to achieve better maternal and child health.
The above programs not only Strengthen Maternal Healthcare but also reduce the expenses of the poor to receive healthcare. A lack of awareness regarding the maternal health services being provided at the community level is seen.
The regional inequities concerning maternal health need to be addressed through improved surveillance and monitoring systems to enable evidence-based policymaking and efficient allocation of resources. To attain the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ for maternal health, the Government needs to raise awareness of women regarding their social entitlements.
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