Maharashtra is one of the three states in the country likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of less than 30 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, according to a recent report.
West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the two other states likely to achieve the target. Goa and Kerala have already done so. Bringing down infant mortality is one of the eight MDGs that member countries of the United Nations have set themselves to achieve before the year 2015.
The report, written by a research team led by Dr Vinod Paul from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), was published in the medical journal Lancet earlier this year.
“Overall, these states have better systems, they invest more in health and people are better educated,” said Pavitra Mohan, health specialist with Unicef India, who was involved with the report.
The state has traditionally had a better record than the rest of the country.
“In Maharashtra, antenatal care services have improved and it is the best in terms of the integrated child development scheme implementation. Voluntary organisations have more accountability,” said Vibhuti Patel, director, department of post-graduate studies and research at SNDT University.
The country as a whole, however, is unlikely to achieve the target of less than 30 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The national average for infant mortality in 2010 was 62.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to estimates from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. “The underlying cause of insufficient progress is weak health systems, substantial inadequacies in planning, financing, human resources, infrastructure, supply systems, governance and monitoring,” said the paper. It goes on to make some suggestions for tackling the issue.
“The only way forward is to transform health systems,” the report said.
“Effective stewardship, decentralised planning in districts, effective service delivery in communities and health facilities, a reasoned approach to demand-side financing, a sustained campaign to change household behaviours, and creation of centres of excellence for health and nutrition policy research are essential for change.”