'We will Soon have a Method to Track Children and Ensure they are Vaccinated'
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15 June 2010
A year after he took charge of the ministry, Union Health Minister GHULAM NABI AZAD talks to TEENA THACKER about his achievements and the challenges ahead.
What improvement has the health sector seen after you took over?
A lot needs to be done in this sector. We have progressed in the past one year in terms of both human resources and infrastructure. There has been almost 50 per cent increase in the number of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) recruited, as compared to those recruited in the first five years after the launch of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). There has also been an increase in the appointment of doctors, paramedics, medical assistants and health practi tioners. Most of the buildings that were taken up for renovation or for new construction are complete.
What steps are being taken to ensure medical facilities are made available to all?
We looked into the cause of the disparity (in availability of health services) and found that 80 per cent of the medical colleges are in South India. So, health indicators like Maternal Mortality Rate, Infant Mortality Rate are obviously better in the southern states than in the rest of the country. We divided the country into three regions and gave concessions to the Northeast and hilly states for opening medical colleges. This way, the problem regarding shortage of human resources will be solved and the facilities made available to one and all.
How do you propose to bring down the MMR, IMR and Total Fertility Rate (TFR)?
We have been emphasising on the new home-based care, which intends to reduce the MMR. A lot of time has been spent by us in tracking children for vaccination.
We will soon have a new method to track children and make sure that they are vaccinated within the given time period. As of now, we do not have any tracking system, and we are dependent on the numbers provided by the state health authorities. We want to take charge and see how many children are actually getting vaccinated. After all, we are sending vaccines and money to the states so that they are able to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. We need to see whether that money is being properly spent or not.
We have opened a call centre here and have sought details with the name of the child, parents, village and phone number from the state governments. If theparentsdonothaveaphone, then the number of any person living in the block can be provided. The person working in the call centre will contact the parents directly and ask about vaccination of their children.
This way we will be able to avoid wrong quoting and get to know the genuine number of children getting vaccinated. This project will definitely have an impact on the IMR.
The data on health indicators is brought out once in three years. Do you think the frequency should be increased?
There is definitely a long gap. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is also a compilation of data spread over years, but the findings can't be of used as there is a long gap. We have asked the Registrar General of India (RGI) to compile district-wise data on a yearly basis. We will not only have trends on yearly basis from next year but also district-based data. The work has already started in 285 districts.
How do you plan to stabilise population?
We have been providing contraceptives in bulk to the state governments. However, we have seen that in many places the entire bulk is lying unused.
We will now provide the bulk directly at the block level, so that more and more people can make use of it. The contraceptives will be supplied also at the sub-centre so that ASHAs can supply it at the village level.