A boy child is likelier to be brought for treatment than a girl child, shows a study of patients at the municipal corporation-run Hindu Rao Hospital.
There is a lot of focus on female foeticide, and the child sex ratio at birth in the hospital has gone up, said one of the researchers involved in the study, Dr Sonia Makhija.
“But no one looks at whether the girl children who are born are taken care of. The sex ratio at our paediatric and immunisation departments clearly shows that girl children do not receive adequate medical care, especially when they are less than four years of age,” she said. Sex ratio refers to the number of females per 1,000 males.
The conclusion is based on analysis of the hospital’s paediatrics department records from 2010 to 2012. The study looked at 100,000 children who visited the out-patient department -- 40,000 who were admitted and 20,000 newborns.
The average sex ratio at birth for the three years under study was 934 girls per 1,000 boys at the hospital. National Family Health Survey pegs the country’s average at 920.
“The people coming to the hospital are mostly poor and do not have access to facilities for illegal sex determination. So, the sex ratio at birth is high,” said Dr Makhija.
The hospital’s ratio fell sharply to 617 in the 0-1 years’ age group. The corresponding national average is 950.
The hospital’s figure continues to remain low at 665 till the age of nine. The corresponding national averages are 891 for 1-4 years bracket and 835 for the 5-9 years group.
The figure rises to 794 in the 10-14 years bracket, while the national average is 869.
“When the girl children grow up, they can persuade their parents to take them to the hospital. Hence the jump in the 10-14 years age group. By then, parents also get used to the idea of having the girl child around,” said Dr Makhija.
Apart from those hospitalized, data of children brought to the hospital’s out-patient clinics and immunisation centre also revealed a similar trend.
The average sex ratio in the 0-12 group of the out-patient department was 726. It is 867 in the reference population.
In the immunisation centre (0-5 years), the ratio was 845 in comparison to national average of 903.
Though girls are biologically stronger than boys, Dr Makhija said, the skewed ratio was not because they don’t need medical care.
“This (biological) advantage is overridden by societal norms. The mortality rates are higher in girl children, meaning that they fall ill but are not taken to a hospital. And, when they do come to us they are critical,” she said.
Dr Makhija said this was case for the government to make provision for right to health.
The study was published in the Indian Journal of Paediatrics.