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Child Health and Population

Child Health and Population

Children die due to various reasons during different phases of childhood. Neonatal mortality, which is recorded as death within 28 days of birth, is mostly related to biological and pregnancy related complications like low birth weight, injuries at the time of delivery, sepsis or infections, and accounts for 64% of all infant deaths.

Deaths during the first year or infancy are predominantly due to low birth weight, malnutrition, poor management of diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. Thus, child mortality is a telling indicator of the quality of life of people, as the living conditions and development opportunities of the parents are starkly reflected in the survival chances of their children. It highlights not only the failure of the health system but of the social development agenda as a whole.

Population programmes focus on child mortality because they aspire to reach a stage where population stabilization is achieved by low death and low birth rates with societies at a higher level of socio-economic development. Child mortality not only keeps the death rates high, it also keeps the birth rates high as parents decide to have more children to compensate for those lost, locking into a vicious cycle of mothers giving birth to more children with weak chances of survival.

Why are so many children born with low birth weight in India?
A baby weighing less than 2.5 kilograms at birth is considered a low birth weight baby. In India, as many as 70% of children are not weighed at birth.

A child's nutritional future begins with a women's nutritional status in adolescence and in pregnancy. Low birth weight occurs because of poor maternal health and nutrition and poor foetal growth. These infants may suffer from infections, weakened immunity, learning disabilities, impaired physical development and, in severe cases, die soon after birth.

A mother chronically undernourished from youth is more likely to give birth to an underweight baby, perpetuating the intergenerational cycle. Inadequate diet or rest, smoking, infections, cultural practices that restrict diet during pregnancy discourage women from gaining weight and long hours of physical labour increase the chances of low birth weight babies.

Timing and frequency of pregnancies are also of great importance, with high risks encapsulated in the phrase "too young, too old, too many or too close".

Inadequate intake of other micronutrients - Vitamin A, iodine, folate, zinc - has a profound impact on both the mother and the foetus, and on the outcome of the pregnancy.

 
 
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