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Women's Groups Linked to Lower Infant Mortality in India

However, a similar study in rural Bangladesh found no benefit to women's support groups

MONDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Women's support groups that address maternal and neonatal health problems in rural India are associated with fewer neonatal deaths and less maternal depression, according to a study published online March 8 in The Lancet. However, a study in the same issue found that similar women's groups in rural Bangladesh had no effect on neonatal mortality.

Prasanta Tripathy, of Ekjut in Jharkhand, India, and colleagues randomly assigned clusters in an estimated population of 228,186 people in a largely tribal and rural population in India to monthly meetings of participatory women's groups that addressed maternal and neonatal health problems, or no group. Among 19,030 births over three years, association with women's groups significantly lowered neonatal mortality rates by 32 percent overall, with an even greater reduction (45 percent) in the second and third year. Moderate maternal depression decreased 57 percent in the third year.

Kishwar Azad, of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh in Dhaka, and colleagues randomly assigned clusters in an estimated population of 503,163 people in rural Bangladesh to monthly meetings of participatory women's groups that addressed maternal and neonatal health problems, or no group. Among 36,113 births over three years, there was a non-significant 7 percent difference in neonatal deaths between the women's groups.

"For participatory women's groups to have a significant effect on neonatal mortality in rural Bangladesh, detailed attention to program design and contextual factors, enhanced population coverage, and increased enrolment of newly pregnant women might be needed," Azad and colleagues conclude. "Women's groups, if scaled to an adequate coverage, have the potential to reach the poorest people and bring about substantial health and non-health benefits. Nonetheless, a women's group approach requires adequate human resources support for community mobilization and appropriate coverage."

Abstract - Tripathy
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Abstract - Azad
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