NFHS 5, done before and during the lockdown, shows improvements in multiple parameters
With significant improvements in several social and health parameters, when compared with the previous edition, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5 seems to have set the State on its regular path ahead yet again, particularly in reproductive and child health.
While the drastic reduction in vaccination rates during NFHS 4 was disconcerting for a State that is usually ahead of the national averages, particularly in the health sector, it is of some solace that the vaccination rates are climbing back up. From lower down the scale at 69.7% during the 2015-16 assessment, the percentage of fully vaccinated children in the 12-23 months age group has risen to 89.2% in the current assessment (2019-2021).
“The comeback in vaccination after the disastrous District Level Health Survey and the earlier NFHS 4 is rather remarkable. We retraced our steps with targeted interventions in districts that had parameters lower than the national average. Our village health nurses and ANMs should be given credit for this,” said Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan.
The hard work of field-level staff is also evident in the improving figures of maternal care — the percentage of mothers who had an antenatal check up in the first trimester went up to 77.4 (from 64), and the percentage of mothers who had at least 4 antenatal visits climbed to 89.9 (from 81.1). The percentage of mothers who were protected by tetanus, those who had taken iron and frolic acid when they were pregnant, also went up significantly in NFHS 5. There were marginal increases in the percentage of institutional births — a nearly 99.8% of births were attended to by skilled health personnel. However, the percentage of caesarian section births has gone up both in private and public health care facilities, with the total percentage of C-section births at 44.9 (up from 34.1) in the State. Other studies too have independently shown a rising trend in C-section deliveries in Tamil Nadu.
The neo-natal mortality rate has gone down to 12.7 (deaths per 1,000 live births in the first 28 days after birth), from 14 in NFHS 4. The infant mortality rate has further dropped to 18.6 from 20.2, and the under-5 mortality rate now stands at 22.3 — a drop from 26.8 in NFHS 4. While sex ratio at birth of the total population is encouraging, at 1,088 females per 1,000 males (up from 1,033 in NFHS 4), the sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years is worrisome, at 867 (a drop from 954 in NFHS 4).
NFHS 5 fieldwork was done from January 6, 2020, to March 21, 2020, before the lockdown, and again from December 21, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Information was gathered from 27,929 households, 25,650 women and 3,372 men.