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Karnataka lags on maternal health, says study

Jun 03, 2013

Despite its impressive economic achievements, Karnataka lags far behind its southern peers on maternal health, says a new independent study.

According to a new study for every 100,000 child births in Karnataka, 178 mothers die, making its record for maternity deaths the worst in southern India and among the worst in the country. The research report is an eye-opener pointing to miserable levels of maternal care in a state that claims to be among the most progressive and economically developed in the country. Experts attribute the shameful stats largely to high risk social factors: child-birth among women much too young or old to bear children or dangerously frequent deliveries.

"Assistance from health providers is best in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, close to 100 per cent; but in Karnataka, it is only 85 per cent," says KNM Raju, an independent researcher who analyzed the data available from the National Family Health Survey and the Sample Registration System of the government of India.

Figures for the he survey covering the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh came also from the 2011 and 2001 census data.

A former head of department at the Population Research Centre, ISEC, Raju aims to soon publish the findings of his independent research to push the “Karnataka government into acting against the high maternal mortality rate.”

Rural women at risk

"The high mortality rate is largely owing to the absence of quality healthcare services in rural and semi-urban areas,” says Dr Vidya Desai, a gynaecologist at a leading city hospital. Sure, says, Dr Jeremy D Souza, adding that compared to those in rural Karnataka, women in urban areas had access to many more options. "There is opportunity to escalate a matter and take it to the next level in the urban areas. If one government healthcare centre does not treat the patient well enough, there is always an option to shift her out to a private clinic and thus save her life. The support system in high-risk pregnancies is quite good in urban areas and virtually absent in the villages.''

"It is strange that a state that leads South India on most counts of development should be having such a poor maternal health record,” says Raju. “Socio-economic compulsions that require a woman to make her career before babies are forcing her to put off child-birth until sometimes it is much too late,” concludes Raju.

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