JK has plummeted to a new low in terms of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) after the state recorded a dip of eight points in 2015-16 taking state IMR to just 26, the biggest reduction among all states, the December 2016 Sample Registration System Bulletin states. The health department officials claim that strengthening of newborn and child care would bring the infant and child mortality further down in the state.
The December 2016 SRS Bulletin released by Census Department of GoI reveals that the IMR of JK for 2015 stood at 26, which is 8 points lower than 34, the JK state IMR for the year 2014. Going by the IMR figures of past five years, IMR in JK has reduced by 15 points. In 2011, the IMR for JK stood at 41. While the reduction in IMR has been consistent for the past few years, with a drop of couple of points every year, the past year has been an exception.
In 2012, IMR for JK stood at 39, 2 points lower than the previous year's figures. In 2013, the IMR again rose to 41 from 39 points. However, in 2014, IMR of the state dropped significantly to 34, seven points lower than the recorded 41, a year before.
In 2015, the trend of steep nose-diving of IMR figures continued and state witnessed a drop of eight points. National Health Mission reported that the state had achieved the highest drop in IMR among all states and stood at top in terms of reduction of IMR in one year.
"The J&K State has been ranked 6th amongst the 21 bigger states in the country to bring down Infant Mortality Rate," a Press Handout of NHM stated recently.
While state's infant mortality has been making headlines one way or the other, officials of the Health department said that intensive and coherent efforts from primary to tertiary care level led to the reduction in IMR. "Credit goes to all," officials added.
"The change is taking place at all levels. From PHCs to tertiary care hospitals, the focus is on new-born care," Dr Mohan Singh, Director National Health Mission JK, said. He added that the in the past few years infrastructure upgradation and establishment 21 Special Newborn Care Units in District Hospitals, 76 Newborn Stabilization Units in Community Health Centres and 281 Baby Care Corners in different hospitals across the State has helped a great deal in making infants stable just after birth.
In addition, he said that efforts were also on to make labour rooms at peripheral hospital levels better equipped to reduce infection rates. "The fact that all health departments are working in tandem to reduce mortality is paying off," he said.
The state has also been granted Rs. 41.43 crores in the 13th Finance Commission as assistance towards strengthening of newborn care and bringing IMR further down.
Commenting about the reduction in IMR, Dr Kaiser Ahmed, Principal GMC and Professor of Pediatrics said that initiatives in reduction of infant mortality were intensified since 2012 and "tertiary care hospitals took a lead in it".
"Our strategies changed, integrated management of childhood illnesses was focused on, we trained doctors, our own and from health services also to identify and manage symptoms and how to put a symptom in the color coding system," Dr Kaiser said. He added that special focus on exclusive breastfeeding and Oral Rehydration was "something that did wonders" to reduce IMR.
Dr Kaiser said that efforts were on from all the departments and GMC to bring IMR further down. "Our aim is to bring IMR down to a single digit by focusing on education, infrastructure and access," he said.
Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Saleem ur Rehman said that making gynecologist and pediatrician available at all Sub-District Hospital had helped in augmenting the safe arrival of a newborn in a hospital setting. He said the gap analysis had revealed that often newborns died of infection and hypothermia.
"We made sure that sanitation was to the level to ensure zero infection rates in our newborn units and that all hospitals, where a delivery took place, there was arrangement to have baby warmers," the Director DHSK said.
He said that human resource, from Medical Officers to nurses for these newborn care units was trained at Kalawati Saran, Lady Hardinge Pediatric Hospital.