Child mortality and health in India

Suresh Sharma, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG)

Childhood is a significant stage of life and deprivation during this period can have long-term adverse impact on the wellbeing of children. Reduction in infant and child morality is likely the most important of the millennium development goals, as children are most important assets of a nation. The focus of this paper is to examine the determinants of childhood mortality and child health in India and the factors explaining the differential performance of the child immunization and treatment of childhood diseases. For this purpose data are taken from the three rounds of the National Family Health Survey of India (NFHS) conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99 and 2005-06. The analysis reveals that infant mortality continues to decline and the decline in child mortality is even more pronounced. The situation regarding child immunization rates, however, is not as clear. By the time the new born is one year old, it is supposed to receive BCG vaccination against tuberculosis, measles vaccination, and three doses each of polio and DPT vaccine. But, there was only a small improvement in full vaccination coverage. Progress in vaccination coverage varies widely among the states. Treatment of childhood illnesses need to be improved, Diarrhea continues to be a major health problem for many children. Although knowledge about Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhea is widespread among mothers. Yet, less than half of children with diarrhea received oral rehydration treatment or increased fluids, as recommended, and 26 percent received no treatment at all. Sixteen percent received antibiotics, which are not recommended for treating most childhood diarrhea. These results have interesting social and policy implications and indicate several promising lines of research. Key words: Infant mortality, Immunization, childhood diarrhea, ORS.

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Presented in Session 92: Infant and childhood mortality in developing countries