Tamil Nadu’s Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) fell further, dropping from 17 to 16 per 1,000 live births in 2017, as per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) data.
The State has been registering a steady decline in IMR since 2013. It fell from 19 in 2015 to 17 in 2016. A year later, IMR reduced by one point to 16 per 1,000 live births. Likewise, the national IMR too has dropped by one point — from 34 to 33.
Rural Tamil Nadu has registered a decline in infant deaths: from 20 in 2016 to 19 in 2017. Urban areas have maintained the same IMR of 14 per 1,000 live births. Health officials see this one-point drop as significant for the State, attributing it to better healthcare services, particularly, through the 73 special newborn care units (SNCU). J. Kumutha, expert advisor-Child Health, National Health Mission-Tamil Nadu, said, “Analysis has shown that the State has done well in preventing preventable deaths. Interventions have been good in the management of prematurity, infections and asphyxia,” she said.
In fact, she pointed out, unit mortality of SNCUs has come down over the years. “With measures in place, the mortality has been reducing. From 6.2% during 2016-2017, it has reduced to 5.6% during 2018-19,” she said.
She added that through Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, active delivery point screenings were being done for congenital heart diseases, making early intervention possible.
The Paediatric Resuscitation and Emergency Medical units in non-medical college hospitals act as a bridge between newborn intensive care units and paediatric ICUs.
K. Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, noted that the aim was to reach single-digit IMR by 2023. “The last-mile decline is difficult as it reduces point by point. This drop is attributable to improved Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care and NICU services. We want to monitor high risk mothers and babies, achieve further improvement of facilities and upgrade the newborn care skills of doctors and nurses. We have started to provide maternal nutrition that will also improve the baby’s health,” he said.
S. Srinivasan, State coordinator, NICU, said any step towards reducing newborn deaths would bring down the IMR. “Neonatal deaths make up for 70% of IMR, and the remaining 30% is one to 12 months. We have been saving 1,000 additional neonates every year through the SNCUs, and this is probably one of the reasons that have led to the drop,” he said.
In babies aged between one to 12 months, the department has been concentrating on preventing deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhoea, he added.