Tamil Nadu boasts about halving the number of infant deaths in the state but the hidden truth is that 20% of all cases of infant mortality are unreported. A study has now nailed the villain, prompting a harder look at the numbers.
Birth defects, which are responsible for a substantial number of childhood hospitalizations and death, are largely unreported in the state. A survey by nonprofit trust Fetal Care Research Foundation in Tiruvallur found less than 39% of government primary healthcare centres report congenital birth defects.
The study covered 54 PHCs in Turuvallur district. Only 21 reported birth defects; 23 were not aware they had to make the reports or did not because of tight schedules. Among the PHCs that reported birth defects, eight reported internet connectivity problems, two said that they were short of manpower and four said they were not interested in entering data.
Birth defects are disorders present from birth that may sometimes be diagnosed later. Experts attribute cases to unplanned pregnancies, poor antenatal care and maternal nutritional status and consanguineous marriages.
Chennai-based Fetal Care Research Foundation has since 2001 been in charge of Birth Defects Registry of India (BDRI), which has a network of 300 hospitals, with more than 50 in Tamil Nadu. According to the data, congenital birth defects occur in 0.7% of the population in the state.
Worldwide prevalence is around 20030010,000 births but, due to poor reporting, BDRI has been able to estimate it at only 5710,000 in India and 49.910,000 in the state.