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WOMEN’S HEALTH

The National Health Profile, 2018 has thrown up some worrying figures about women’s reproductive health. It shows that 71.9 per cent pregnant women do not have access to iron and folic acid tablets. Further, only 21. 8 per cent expectant mothers get full antenatal care. Statistics are alarming. In Jammu and Kashmir despite lofty claims of improvement in the health system and the health status of people, especially those living in rural areas it still has to go a long way even to provide basic health care system in rural areas. As a result of this, women among the rural poor bear the brunt of poor health facilities. In Bihar, 96.7 per cent women do not get full antenatal care and in Uttar Pradesh, the figure is a dismal 94.1 per cent. Improper implementation of policies and lax monitoring on the part of states, the report suggests, are the primary causes of such neglect. Most welfare measures in India are stymied by problems and this must be remedied. But the roots of apathy towards the health of Indian women run deeper and are often invisible. Cultural practices and institutional indifference are not the only obstacles that need to be overcome. A dietary imbalance is discernible in India. The prioritisation of rice and wheat in the public distribution system and, arguably, scientific research has edged out indigenous food items like millet that are packed with iron. Survey shows that between 1983 and 2011, changing dietary patterns reduced iron intake in India by 21 per cent in rural areas. In urban India, the figure was 11 per cent. Introduction of nutrient-rich coarse cereals in the PDS could perhaps be an efficient intervention in the fight against anaemia, given that some 85 per cent households depend on it for sustenance. Anaemia, in turn, leads to high infant and maternal mortality rates, and malnourishment among children.

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