Dr. Harshvardhan will Fast Track Efforts to Prevent Newborn Deaths

Bill Gates praises India’s polio conquest

Dr. Harshvardhan will fast track efforts to prevent newborn deaths

New Delhi: Union health minister, Dr. Harshvardhan said today here that he does not believe in long range targets. We must achieve our health goals within a short time.

Inaugurating Indian Newborn Action plan (INAP), the minister said he has an action plan to fast track efforts to prevent newborns from dying.  He expressed confidence government will succeed in reducing newborn (birth to 28 days) mortality rate to single digit long before the 2030 target date. The present death rate is 29 per 1,000 live births. For this are required simple, cost-effective interventions before and immediately after delivery.

On this occasion, Mr Bill Gates and Mrs Melinda Gates, who are helping India’s health programs substantially, particularly mother and child care, were also present. The minister praised their contribution and said,  ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is doing valuable work in the rural areas of the country.’

2.8 million Newborns who die at birth worldwide, India contribute 700,000. He said ‘These are preventable deaths and now we have an action plan for preventing them. I don’t believe in long-range targets. We must achieve our goal within a short time.’

INAP has been prepared with the help of expertise drawn from distinguished members of a Technical Resource Group. He said, ‘They have set out a vision of a world in which there are no preventable deaths of newborns or still births, where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is celebrated and every woman, baby and child thrive to reach to reach their full potential.’

The Minister said that INAP will be implemented under the existing Reproductive, Maternal, Child Health and Adolescents Plus (RMNCHA+) framework. Six evidence-based, effective strategies impacting still births and newborn health will be used. These include preconception and antenatal care, care during labour and child birth, immediate newborn care, care of healthy newborns, care of small and sick newborns and care beyond newborn survival.

Under the sixth pillar of care –beyond newborn survival – India has taken the vital decision to improve the quality of life for those with birth defects, neuro-developmental delay and disabilities. Effective implementation of the strategic plan will be ensured through a systematic plan for monitoring and evaluation of dashboard indicators and milestones.

Recalling the involvement of all stakeholders in the fight against polio, Dr Harsh Vardhan wanted a replication while saving the lives of newborns. He said, ‘In this struggle the role of the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) will be crucial. It is also essential to identify and close all the gaps in the system, he stated.’

‘Just as he revolutionised the basic human thought process through the personal computer revolution, Bill Gates has saved millions of lives by donating billions of dollars for transforming conditions of human existence. At a time when the anti-polio campaign was threatened for want of adequate funds, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in with help. They are invaluable partners in our fight against disease and death,’ Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

‘We have a deadline to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which is only a year away. I hope to get every doctor’s contribution in achieving this target,’ he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Bill Gates, Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wholesomely praised the Minister for his pioneering work in polio eradication. ‘There are lessons to be learnt from India’s fight against polio which may be applied against other diseases also,” he said.

Mr Gates lauded the government for expanding the list of diseases under the Universal Immunisation Programme. He highlighted the importance of including the Rotavirus vaccine in the package.

Mrs Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Foundation, said that by launching INAP, India has shown leadership in addressing newborn and maternal mortality. She too commended the ASHA and auxiliary nurse midwives for their roles in Mother and Child care in the rural areas. “Healthy mothers and healthy children are crucial for India to realise the demographic dividend,” she added.

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