The most comprehensive report card on India’s health is out and the reports are that the country is struggling on most of the health and development indices.
The findings of the National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), the country’s largest multi-round survey conducted in 28 states between December 2005 and August 2006, show that only 35 per cent men and 22 per cent women complete 10 years of education in India. Despite low levels of literacy, the survey found that the exposure to media – newspapers, television or radio – was high, with 65 per cent women and 80 per cent men staying connected with the rest of the world.
The survey found that women’s empowerment is yet to make a difference to the life of over half of the country’s women. Only 52.5 per cent women – 61.4 per cent urban and 48.5 per cent rural – said they participated in household decisions. As many as 37.2 per cent married women reported experiencing spousal violence, with 30.4 per cent of those affected living in urban areas and 40.2 per cent in rural.
The NHFS-3 is the third in a series of nationwide surveys done to gather information on the health, nutrition and behaviour. For the survey, 109,041 households were surveyed, of which 32.6 per cent were urban and 67.4 per cent were rural. The NHFS-1 (1992-93) and NHFS-2 (1998-99) surveyed only married women aged between 15 and 49 years. This year, men and unmarried women were included for the first time.
The health of the country’s children improved, though marginally. The percentage of underweight children dropped from 47 per cent to 46 per cent. Children’s nutritional status improved, with stunted growth going down from 46 per cent in 1998-99 to 38 per cent in 2006. Routine vaccination of children improved from 42 per cent in 1998-99 to 44 per cent.
On the upside, India’s population policy has had an impact. While total fertility – the average number of children a women has in her lifetime – dropped to 2.7 from 2.9 in 1998-99, contraception use also increased from 48 per cent in 1998-99 to 56 per cent in 2005-06. Use of condoms has gone up from 3.1 per cent in 1998-99 to 5.3 per cent. However, male sterilisation has dropped from 1.9 per cent in 1998-99 to 1.0 per cent, while female sterilisation has gone up from 34.1 per cent in 1998-99 to 37.3 per cent in 2005-06.