Narendra Modi government has launched a new health initiative for pregnant women called Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) on June 9, 2016.
Speaking to the nation on ‘Mann ki Baat‘, PM Modi spoke of the need for a healthy nation and the need for pregnant women to remain healthy through their period of pregnancy leading up to delivery. The need to address the high maternal mortality rate, along with high infant mortality rate was acute, and this initiative would help in bringing down both.
High Maternity Mortality Rate
As per a Ministry of Health and Family Welfare report released on February 27, 2015, under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, the Maternity Mortality Rate (MMR) in India was to come down from 560 per 100,000 in 1990 to 140 per 100,000 in 2015.
However, as per reports released by Registrar General of India, the MMR between 2011-2013 was at 167 per 100,000. According to UNICEF, over 55,000 pregnant women in India lose their lives at the time of delivery, which could well be prevented with timely medical follow-up and intervention. This has been a matter of concern and priority with the government, as can be seen from several medical initiatives undertaken to address this.
Free Check-up will be a boon
Under the PMSMA initiative, all government hospitals and health centres shall offer free health check up on 9th of every month to all pregnant women. The check-up will include haemoglobin test, blood test, sugar level test, blood pressure, weight and general screening.
Women pregnant between 3 and 6 months, can approach a government hospital or health centre, or any accredited private hospital for the check-ups. The Prime Minister has urged private doctors to join the PMSMA initiative and volunteer their services.
Pregnant women, especially from economically weaker sections, tend to be malnourished and lacking in vital nutrients during pregnancy. This often results in children being born with abnormalities and suffering from undernourishment.
If monitored on time during pregnancy, several of these abnormalities in newborns can be avoided. Due to poverty and lack of awareness, most women from weaker sections of society do not get access to timely medical attention and care. PMSMA will now ensure that all pregnant women will be able to get a free medical check-up done on the 9th of every month, at any government hospital or health care centre, anywhere in the country.
If followed-up regularly, this initiative alone can ensure a significant drop in children being born with abnormalities. Of course, the check-up will have to be followed up by proper health monitoring, diet and nutritional supplements. This could be a challenge for most women, many of whom struggle to put two meals on the table, besides all the household chores that they also have to undertake on a daily basis.
PMSMA initiative complements another government initiative called Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), under which pregnant women can avail free deliveries at government health facilities or even at certain accredited private hospitals.
Critical need for government intervention to improve diet and nutrition during pregnancy
As per UNICEF, infant mortality and post-birth complication arise out of malnutrition and result in low birth-weight, deficiency in iodine and vitamin A.
Offering timely health check-ups is an important step for pregnant women, but in the absence of a planned and monitored nutritional diet, the health of both the mother and yet-to-be-born-child will remain compromised.
The government must, therefore, extend the PMSMA to include a government sponsored nutritional diet access and supply plan, based on individual needs of each woman. This will go a long way in meeting the national goal of building a healthy nation on the back of its healthy people.
The amount of money that the government invests in offering ante-natal and neo-natal care facilities, can be brought down if timely health check-up is complemented with a monitored nutritional supply plan for pregnant women. This is an area the government will do well to focus on in coming time.
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