Decrease Maternal Mortality in India by Improving Existing Support Programs

Target: Government of Gujarat Health and Family Welfare Department

Goal: Reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in India by improving awareness and usage of existing birthing support program.

Maternal mortality rates across India remain high to this day. The rates vary from state to state, but it is not at all uncommon for a new mother to die suddenly within a day after giving birth, and for little accountability to be held by anyone involved. In addition, these families are often ordered to pay for services that were either performed inadequately or not at all, even though a government-based incentive program that already exists entitles pregnant women to free delivery and up to a month of treatment and food in public health institutions.

The women who need this service the most are unaware that it even exists, and as a result continue to subject themselves to unsafe birthing practices. The government of Gujarat to improve the efficacy of the program by making women better informed of their options and encouraging health facilities to actually utilize it.

The program, called Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), is a “conditional cash transfer scheme to encourage women for institutional deliveries.” This has led to a dramatic increase in women choosing hospitals over rural births, but many are unaware of one of the incentives in the program that entitles women to free transportation to and from the facility.

Even once a woman has elected to have an in-hospital birth, the facilities themselves often do not inform families of their no-cost options and benefits, and the women are also harassed for additional money they’re not required to pay. This exploitation only encourages a fearful mindset and therefore reluctance to use the services so readily available to them.

The hospitals need to stop abusing their powerful positions and adhere to the policies outlined by the JSY when it was created. They also need to ensure their facilities are well equipped to handle the influx of women they face these days and that health workers are skilled enough to provide the emergency obstetric care they need. If proper attention was paid to these matters and women across all districts could expect the type of care they are promised, then maternal mortality rates would go down and favor for public health centers would naturally increase.

Hospitals cannot be left to their own devices to make these changes happen. It will require a type of intervention, and regular monitoring to ensure that incentive programs such as the JSY aren’t being neglected. Let the government of Gujarat know that they should care about the safety and lives of the expectant mothers as much as the children they will soon be raising.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Government of Gujarat Health and Family Welfare Department,

While I commend you for encouraging women to take advantage of the Janani Suraksha Yojana and safer birthing options, I would also like to make you aware that not all women know these choices are even available. Even the ones who do know aren’t always able to fully utilize its services because of the various barriers that exist, and the hospitals are partially to blame for exacerbating this problem.

The public health institutions either blatantly deny women of their free alternatives, or charge them anyway through harassment and scare tactics. And there is little these women can do about it, as they often feel they are in vulnerable positions at the hands of their health providers. Many women don’t even know they have access to free transportation to and from the hospital for up to an entire month after their child is born, in addition to a number of other incentives. Therefore, the services are not only being underutilized, but also made to be inaccessible in certain cases by hospitals that are supposed to be employing them.

Please make the necessary changes in your policy to properly regulate the administration of JSY services, so that all women who need them can have access and women’s health and rights across the state may be prioritized.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: The Hindu online edition

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