Data reveals poor access to Neonatal Healthcare in the state

City Health Top Story

Only 8.2 per cent of newborn babies in Karnataka have access to healthcare at the neonatal stage reveals NFHS-4 data

Bangalore, March 8, 2018: The National Family Health Survey has revealed that in Karnataka only 8.2 per cent children get access to neonatal healthcare. The data has been collected from both the urban and rural areas of the state.

The neonatal period in children spans the day the baby is born to a month from then. A research paper published in Public Library of Science (PLOS) in 2017, titled, ‘Maternal and Newborn Health in Karnataka State, India’ identified several causes of morbidity and mortality among neonates. These complications are related to breathing, jaundice, excessive bleeding, among others. The data in the paper was collected from a total of eight villages in the Bagalkot and Belgaum districts.

Dr. Rajeev D, MBBS, MD Pediatrics based in Bangalore, spoke about how crucial neonatal healthcare is. “Delivery time is crucial and how the child is treated during childbirth ensures that the baby does not contract infections and the transition to infancy is easy,” he said.

Rajeev added, if the mother was unwell during the time of delivery and is running a fever or has urinary tract infections, the baby is vulnerable. The causes of morbidity range from bacterial infections to respiratory problems.

Bacterial infections can spread to the brain and also cause neurological problems that can last a lifetime. This can affect the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of the child and also affect their motor skills and hinder their development.

These infections if not taken care of, might lead to death. “Babies are quite sterile when they are born. As they are born, they are exposed to bacteria and viruses and have to develop their immunity. That is why vaccinations are important for immunization,” Rajeev explained.

Asha Kilaru, independent Public Health Researcher and co-founder of an NGO called Bangalore Birth Network (BBN), mentioned the incidence of neonatal sepsis, a kind of bacterial infection in the blood stream that contributes to the neonatal mortality rate. She added that the low birth weight of children can make them vulnerable to this infection. “There are several social and economic causes, but if one has to address the medical causes one is the baby being born prematurely and the other is intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) where the development of the baby in the womb is delayed.”

In the case of respiratory problems, this phenomenon is confirmed by the research conducted in the eight villages. The research says the biggest cause of morbidity is breathing problems. There are also infections like Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS) which causes difficulty in breathing. This may affect the level of oxygen reaching the brain and can cause neurological damage.

Meconium is the first stool that a baby passes as it is born. “If the baby inhales this meconium, it might cause infection in the airways. This does not happen if the baby is born in a clean environment,” said Dr. Rajeev

The way to ensure the survival rate of the babies is to ensure that institutional delivery rate is high. “It is important that the environment that the baby is born in is hygienic. This is a crucial risk factor especially in the case of pre-mature babies,” he said. He said that this is the reason why health specialists and the government are focusing on birthing at hospitals where there are qualified persons to supervise.

Asha Kilaru emphasized on the importance of nutrition during the gestation period. “Most of these infections and complications arise due to low birth weight which is 2500 gms (2.5 kilograms). Also, the incidence of low birth weight is really high and it is reported in almost one in three children in India,” she said.

She added that if we address this problem, we can also find solutions to it.

Dr. Rajeev also emphasized the importance of education in ensuring that expecting mothers seek healthcare at the right time. He took the example of Kerala, where the mortality rate is low and is inversely related to the high literacy rate.