Kerala brings down India's infant mortality rate from 57 to 41

Kerala has achieved a single digit infant mortality rate (IMR) of 6, a level equal to that of the US and the average for developed nations, compared to 15 in 2005-06.

Kerala brings down India

Kerala has now become a trendsetter state in by bringing down the number of children who die under the age of 1 per 1000 live births to single digit.

Kerala has achieved a single digit infant mortality rate (IMR) of 6, compared to 15 in 2005-06.

This is a level equal to that of the US and the average for developed nations, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2015-16.

Compare this to the country's current IMR of 41. The state is single-handedly responsible for bringing down the national IMR from 57 in 2005-06.

An IMR of 6 is lower than that of countries like Russia (8), China (9), Sri Lanka (8) and Brazil (15).

Kerala had been struggling over the past decade to bring down the IMR to a single digit from 12 where it has been stuck since 2009, according to the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) conducted by the office of the registrar of census.

Kerala continues to be way ahead of other Indian states on this measure, the closest big state to it being Tamil Nadu with an IMR of 21. Paediatricians and public health experts in Kerala, however, are more sceptical than overjoyed at the new numbers.
While many are willing to believe that the IMR has dipped below 10 in recent years, a dramatic fall to six is something they are skeptical about. With the falling number of births, they wonder if the number of infants in the overall NFHS sample for Kerala was adequate to measure IMR accurately. Over 60% of infant mortality is neonatal mortality (death within the first 28 days of birth). Most of these deaths are due to prematurity, low birth weight and asphyxia at birth.

"There has been a focus on IMR as part of the millennium development goals, which gained momentum in the last seven to eight years even though the goals were launched in 2000. In our own hospital, we have seen neonatal mortality fall by half," Dr Mohandas Nair, additional professor in paediatrics in Kozhikode Medical College told The Times of India.

However, he said the efforts could have led to a steady decline to a single digit, most probably around 8 or 9 rather than a sudden fall from 12 to 6.

The state has also improved indicators of under-5 child mortality, which stands at 7 compared to 16 in the last survey.

And while the child sex ratio (number of girls under the age of five per thousand boys) for India stands at 919, just a little better than the 2011 census figure of 914, Kerala has outdone India in this aspect as well.

The CSR for the state now stands at 1047 - much higher than 925 reported in the last NFHS. This means that compared to the rest of India, Kerala is perhaps implementing the ban on sex selection much better.