Women and children's health pressing agenda for Govt: Nadda

Health concerns, especially those related to women, children and adolescents, are "prominent and pressing" agenda for the Narendra Modi-led government, Union Minister J P Nadda Thursday said.

New Delhi: Health concerns, especially those related to women, children and adolescents, are "prominent and pressing" agenda for the Narendra Modi-led government, Union Minister J P Nadda Thursday said.

Noting that under-five and maternal mortality rates in the country have registered a decline over the years, the Health Minister said he was "hopeful" that the country will achieve UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 which aims at reducing child and maternal mortality rates.

MDGs 4 and 5 call for a two-third reduction of under five child deaths and a three-quarter reduction of maternal deaths respectively by the end of 2015.

"The health of women, children and adolescents is one of the most prominent and pressing agenda for the global community. ... Health and public health concerns, especially those related to women and mothers, children and adolescents, are central to the governance agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and our country," he said.

Nadda was speaking at the Global Stakeholders Consultation event here on the topic of updated global strategy for women's, children's and adolescents' health - "Every Woman, Every Child".

Noting that global progress has been uneven and it differed across and within countries, Nadda said that there is a need to reach the poorest and the most vulnerable.

"We need to pay special attention to low-income countries, and fragile states and vulnerable groups such as adolescents and youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples," he said.

Nadda said that the under-five mortality rate has come down by over 61 per cent between 1990 and 2013 while the neonatal mortality rate has registered a 47 per cent decline between 1990 and 2013.

"The maternal mortality indicators have come down substantially, making for a reduction of nearly 70 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

"At this point in time I am very hopeful that India may achieve its targets for both MDG 4 and 5," he said.

Global Stakeholders Consultation seeks to draft a blueprint that will feed into UN efforts to chalk out key targets to improve health of women, child and adolescents in the years beyond 2015.

The Health Minister hoped that the discussions during the consultation will be based on what countries have achieved over the last two decades.

Noting that challenges still remain, Nadda said, "There are large inequalities across and within states in India. To address these, we have shifted our focus to geographical areas of greatest concern and populations that carry the highest burden of illness and mortality."

Stating that they have the opportunity today to shape the development priorities of the future, he urged the global community not to "squander" it but to lead from the front.

India has moved from its earlier focus on Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) to a new strategic approach - Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health+A (RMNCH+A) -- in order to focus on all life stages including adolescence, the Health Minister said.

"We are committed to the cause of new born health. The India Newborn Action Plan (INAP) is a structured and evidence based attempt to eliminate all preventable new-born deaths and still births, and to scale up high-impact but cost-effective interventions," he said.

Referring to maternal and child health programmes of Janani Suraksha Yojna (JSY) and the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) which provide active incentives for institutional deliveries, he said every woman who delivers a baby in a public health facility is guaranteed free medical care, free drugs and medicines, free diagnostics, support for a nutritious diet and transport.

"As a result, institutional delivery has increased from a pre-programme average of 40.7 per cent in 2005-06 to 74.4 per cent in 2013," Nadda said.

He said building on India's successful battle against wild polio, the country's universal immunisation programme has been expanded to introduce three new vaccines -- rotavirus, rubella and polio ? targeting rotavirus, which is the leading cause of diarrhoea and among the biggest killers of children in our country.

He also referred to the recently launched 'Mission Indradhanush' which aims to cover by 2020 children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated against the seven vaccine-preventable diseases -- diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B,

The two-day consultation will give stakeholders from India and around the world the opportunity to weigh in on the priorities, policies and targets in the current draft of the global strategy based on lessons learned from local experiences.

The consultation is being co-hosted by Health Ministry, UN Secretary General's Office, WHO and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and others.

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