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J Health Popul Nutr. 2002 Jun;20(2):148-55.

Pathways to infant mortality in urban slums of Delhi, India: implications for improving the quality of community- and hospital-based programmes.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi.


The study aimed at obtaining insights into the processes underlying infant deaths to help identify preventive interventions which may bring down infant mortality rates further. Verbal autopsies were performed on 162 deaths of liveborn infants that occurred in a birth cohort in two urban slums of Delhi, India, between February 1995 and August 1996. A structured verbal autopsy form was used for ascertaining the cause of death. The narratives of caretakers on seeking of care and treatment received for illness were reviewed to identify the actions and behaviours that might have contributed to death. Seeking of care was less common (57%) for illnesses that led to death in the first week of life than at later ages. The first-week deaths commonly (61%) occurred within 24 hours of recognition of illness which might have been too a short time for effective interventions by care providers. Only six of 45 neonates who had features of sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis, major congenital malformations, birth asphyxia, or prematurity were advised by primary care providers for hospitalization. Similarly, only 25 (41%) of 61 older infants who had severe malnutrition and sepsis or meningitis, diarrhoea or pneumonia, or other illnesses were referred to hospital. Parenteral antibiotics were prescribed less often than warranted. Only two of 16 neonates with serious bacterial infections and eight of 19 postneonates with features of sepsis or meningitis received parenteral antibiotics. Inappropriate healthcare practices were common among the practitioners of modern and indigenous systems of medicine and registered medical practitioners. Forty percent of the neonates and a little over half of the older infants, advised for hospitalization, were taken to hospital. Fifteen percent of the infants taken to hospital were refused admission. Of 21 hospitalized infants discharged alive, five (23%) died within 48 hours and 13 (62%) within a week of returning home. A major effort is required to improve skills of healthcare providers of the biomedical and indigenous systems of medicine in caring for neonates and infants. Development of home-based treatment regimens for young infants and objective criteria for their hospitalization and discharge should receive a high priority.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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