This month our focus is on maternal and child health services in India; in particular projects supported by EMMS International around Duncan Hospital in Bihar and Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh.
The project in and around Duncan Hospital has seen the formation of a wide variety of community groups in 26 villages to receive training to tackle the many social and cultural issues that affect maternal and child health. Traditionally, older women make decisions about the health and education of their adolescent sons and daughters with huge numbers of girls not having a say in their own future. There is a high prevalence of underage marriage (girls are often as young as 12 years old) and many pregnant girls are not coming for antenatal check-ups. As well as increased attendance for antenatal care, one of the most striking achievements of the project has been the role of strong female role models for younger girls. Although the complete outworking of these changes will take a long time, the beginnings of a generational change are underway.
The appeal for Duncan Hospital, which raised £344,800, has enabled the hospital to buy more equipment and vehicles and employ more staff, ensuring that the increased demand for services is being met.
The objective of the Community Health and Development Project of Christian Hospital Chhatarpur is to play a facilitatory role in improving the quality of the existing government health programmes by empowering the rural population to demand quality improvement in the services to which they are entitled. It is a unique opportunity for the project to work alongside government healthcare and improve the use of existing national services rather than launch parallel services.
There have been impressive gains in the number of women coming for antenatal care with an increase in the proportion of women breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months. Additionally, there has been a general improvement in infant health with an increase in the proportion of children who are of normal weight for age. There is still a need, however, for further improvements in the provision of health services in the area.
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