India launched a scheme on Friday to provide free health check-ups to pregnant women at government health centres and hospitals.
The Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) — popularly known as ‘I pledge for 9’ — was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Mann Ki Baat address on June 9. It invites the private sector to provide free ante-natal services (ANC) on the 9th of every month on a voluntary basis to pregnant women, especially those living in under-served, semi-urban, poor and rural areas.
“We want this programme to turn into a movement. We have requested doctors in the private sector to visit public hospitals and provide free check-up to pregnant women,” said health minister JP Nadda.
In India, one pregnant woman dies every 12 minutes, with 45,000 dying each year. Of them, less than one in five (19.7%) undergo pre-natal health checks.
“The aim of this scheme is to broaden the base of beneficiaries and providers. We don’t just want to provide quantity but quality healthcare,” said health secretary CK Mishra.
The response was positive. A text message sent by the federation of gynaecological and obstetrics societies of India (FOGSI) to all its members generated more than 15,000 volunteers. “Maternal and child deaths are very low in the private sector and we need to take this private force to the public sector,” said Dr Hrishikesh Pai, secretary general, FOGSI.
As part of the scheme, women will be tested for anaemia, blood pressure, high blood sugar (gestational diabetes), and other problems associated with pregnancy and provided free ultrasounds to track the health and development of the baby in the womb.