Free food, drugs to pregnant mothers

Aimed at improving India’s poor maternal and child mortality rates, the scheme would be launched by the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 1.

Pregnant mothers would receive drugs, diet during their stay, diagnostic and consumables and transport for pick up and drop free of cost, union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Wednesday.

The states have been asked to ensure free and cashless services to pregnant women delivering in government health institutions as well as to look after the sick babies.
Even though India has an ambitious target of achieving an IMR of 28 per 1,000 live birth by 2015 as a part of its commitment under the UN Millennium Development Goal, the latest official statistics pegged the national average at 50.

According to an UNICEF report, India’s maternal mortality rate stood at 230 per one lakh population in 2008, down from 570 in 1990, 390 in 2000 and 280 in 2005. But this is still significantly high when compared against the Millennium Development Goal of reduction of maternal mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2005.

Earlier, the government used to pay only for bringing the mother to healthcare units. But that step turned out to be counter-productive because after delivery the mother and the baby are often taken back by their families in bullock carts.

The new scheme would be applicable to all women covered under the National Rural Health Mission and recognised by the community health workers in villages (ASHA).
Azad said the Centre would start a new system of tracking the new born and their mother through a computerised system to ensure that their basic healthcare needs reach the target population.

Even though the Central government provides the vaccines free of cost and bear all expenses of administering the shots, many states do not implement the immunisation and other health schemes making the children and mother vulnerable.But in the absence of any real-time information, the Centre has little option to take any corrective step.  
The government has now come out with a new mother and child tracking system to facilitate collection of all basic healthcare data. A BPO-type system was being set up to verify the authenticity and accuracy of data provided by the states and to take follow up actions, said health secretary K Chandramouli. The same platform could be used later for communication on non-communicable diseases.

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