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Women and child health : Why it is More Challenging Factor in India?

Issues related to women and child health

Health is both an indicator of and an instrument for women’s development and progress. So, investment in promoting health of Women is a major input for providing a good quality of life for women and to ensure better productivity.

SITUATION OF WOMEN’S HEALTH IN INDIA

Irrespective of the promising prescription of the Indian Constitution and the visionary policies, the health situation of Women in India is not very appealing. The alarming health condition of the women in the country is reflected in the declining sex ratio. The sex ratio of the country is noted to be 940 per 1000 males in 2011 which is indicative of high death rate among them.

Women in India suffer from malnutritionment and under nutritionment. Nutritional deprivation and deficiency have two major consequences for women, they never reach their full growth potential and suffer from anemia.

57.4% women in rural areas and 50.9% women in urban areas suffered from anemia during 2005-06. The share of anemic women across the age groups 20-29 years centered on 55% during the same period. 52% married women suffer from anemia. Malnutrition is common among women belonging to households which are below the poverty line.

The average nutritional intake of Women is 1400 calories a day whereas necessary requirement is approximately 2200 calories a day.

From a global perspective, India accounts for 17% of all live births and 27% of all maternal deaths. The current Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of India is 174 per one lakh live births. UNICEF in its report, came up with shocking figures on the status of new mothers in India. According to the report, as many as 45,000 women in India die of childbirth complications every year. Five women in every hour in India die due to complications developed during child birth. It is estimated that 23.9 lakh people are infected with HIV in India, of whom 39% are women.

FACTORS THAT PREVENT BETTER HEALTH STATUS TO WOMEN IN INDIA

1. Women and girls child is considered as economic  burden: The health of Indian women is intrinsically linked to their status in society. Women are considered economic burden and their contribution to family economy is overlooked as they are mostly unpaid. Girls are married in early ages which badly affects their reproductive health. Child marriages lead to birth of underweight children with poor health and even premature death. Numerous pregnancies and closely spaced births increase the health risk for mothers.

2. Low level of education:The low level of education and low formal labour force participation of women restrict their health consciousness and access to health care services. It also determines their nutritional status. Because they are not economically self sufficient they fail to spend money on their health and welfare.  Lack of control over economic resources is a major reason for their health neglect.

3. Gender Inequality: Food insecurity loom large around women because of their economic impoverishment and gender practices of the society. This is becoming more acute in the new millennium when agricultural productivity is getting sharply effected. Starvation is more common to women. Gender has been the most statistically significant determinant of malnutrition among young children, which becomes underlying cause of death among girls of below age 5.

4. Strong son preferences: There is heavy son preferences in the country. Families take health of males and sons more seriously paying least attention to that of mothers and daughters. High level of infant mortality combined with strong son preference motivate woman to bear high numbers of children in an attempt to have son. Numerous pregnancies lead to various Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and birth of underweight and abnormal children.

5. Violence: Violence is common in low caste Indian families. Woman is always powerless and voiceless. They are secluded, shy and  de-valued which restricts them from asserting to their right to good nutrition and health care.

6. Child Marriages: Child marriages are still in vogue in the country.  In interiors areas of Rajasthan girls child marriages are still prevalent which gives rise to early motherhood and contributes significantly for an upward stride of Maternal Mortality Rate.

7.  Female foeticide and infanticide and infertility: Female foeticide, infanticide are other evils in society which badly affects the physical and mental health of woman. After numerous abortions or due to malnutrition women are facing many complications in conceiving which becomes a cause of stress and depression.

8. Migration, Desertion and Divorce becomes a cause of depression and anxiety: The increasing rates of migration, Desertion and Divorce has brought new burdens on woman and has created health hazards of high magnitude. Migration limits their access to health care system in the area of destination. Desertion burdens them economically and being single, they fail to venture to access health services.

9. Patriarchy: Most Indian families are patriarchal. Women lack of autonomy in decision making or movement is also an important constraint on women’s health seeking behaviour.

10. Lack of timely transportation to the nearest hospital: one of the reason why women succumb to reproduction related complications is lack of timely transportation to the nearest hospital especially in rural areas. India’s Maternal Mortality Rate is highest in South Asia. An estimated 1,30,000 die in India every year due to pregnancy related set backs.

INTERVENTIONS NEEDED TO IMPROVE HEALTH AMONG WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN INDIA 

  • As deeply rooted social institutions- societal norms, codes of conduct, laws and traditions that cause gender discrimination they are to be changed with the change in attitude of individuals.
  • Overexploitatation of women’s reproductive ability is to be put to an end through regular sensitization and campaigns.
  • The flagship programmes for promoting women’s health should not remain confined to records, but also be translated to action. Anganwadi workers and Asha Karmis are to become more active and responsive to the needs of women.
  • Improving female’s access to education is a bare necessity to improve the health status of women. Once women are educated and entitled for paid employment, there will be betterment in their status and improved health care can come within their reach.
  • Family Planning and sexual counselling can empower women and young children to take more control over their lives. They should be educated about deciding child birth, child spacing and child care which will protect their health and reduce the rate of Maternal and child mortality rates.
  • Consciousness about nutritional intake for women and children has to be developed to protect them from preventable diseases. In this regard the culture of neglecting women’s food intake needs a change.