//Fertility rates drop in 5 Indian states: national health survey

Fertility rates drop in 5 Indian states: national health survey

The past seven years have been a period of marked improvement in a number of health indicators in Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, according to the third National Family Health Survey.

Fertility rates have dropped in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, according to the preliminary findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), from 2005-06. The number of children who die within the first year of their life — another vital social indicator — has also fallen substantially over the last seven years.

The continued decline in fertility is being attributed chiefly to the increased use of modern contraceptive methods and the phenomenon of late marriages.

The highest rise in contraceptive use in the last seven years was reported in Chhattisgarh (from 45% to 53%) and Gujarat (from 59% to 67%), according to a recent health ministry release.

The average age of women at the time of the time of their first pregnancy ranges from 18.8 years in Chhattisgarh to 21.4 years in Punjab. Commenting on the data from Punjab, Gopal Krishan, director Population Research Centre at Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development CRRID), who headed the NFHS survey in the states aid, 'Punjab has evidently stepped into the third stage of demographic transition, representing a tendency toward global stabilization of population. It is attributed primarily to the rise in adoption rate of family planning from 51 to 56%.'

The survey also reports that antenatal care is almost universal in the five states — pregnant women received some amount of antenatal care for 87-93 per cent of their births. However, only 55%-75% of women receive the recommended antenatal care of at least three doctor’s visits during their pregnancies. Institutional births have also have been steadily increasing over time in all the five states except Chhattisgarh, where there has been only a slight increase in the last seven years.

The 2005-06 survey, the third in a series of national surveys conducted by the health ministry, interviewed over 2.3 lakh women aged 15-49 and men aged 15-54 in 29 states.

On the child health front, striking a note of concern is the fact that while the survey findings report ‘impressive gains’ in immunisation coverage in Chhattisgarh and Orissa, the other three states — Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat — witnessed “substantial deterioration in full immunisation coverage”. The increased emphasis on the pulse polio drive in these states has meant decreased vaccination for other childhood diseases diptheria and tetanus.

NFHS-3 also tested more than 100,000 women and men for HIV/AIDS, and more than 200,00 adults and young children for anaemia.

Other findings of the survey include:

Many adults continue to suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
However, in the urban areas of all five States, at least one in five women is overweight or obese.
There has been substantial improvement in the nutritional status of young children since 1998-99.
Diarrhoea continues to be a major childhood illness in these five states.
Earlier NFHS surveys were carried out in 1992-93 (NFHS-1) and 1998-99 (NFHS-2). Like the two previous surveys, NFHS-3 has been organised by International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, supported by USAID through ORC-macro. Fieldwork for NFHS-3 for all the 29 states was conducted from December 2005 to August 2006. The results of the remaining 24 states and those of the all-India survey will be released by the end of this year.