Maternal and newborn health in India is a pressing issue. Women die every day before and during childbirth, yet 90% of these maternal deaths are entirely preventable with adequate healthcare. Poverty exacerbates maternal mortality, with about 94% of maternal deaths occurring in lower-income nations. In lower-income nations, the common obstacles in receiving proper healthcare include the inability to afford healthcare services and a “lack of information.” Distance also plays a factor, particularly in rural areas where clinics and hospitals are scant and many women cannot easily travel to these facilities. ARMMAN is an India-based organization that aims to improve maternal and newborn health in India.
Maternal Healthcare in India
Even if a woman makes it to the hospital for childbirth, the services she receives may be subpar, putting her health at risk. Without proper hygiene protocols in place and well-trained medical staff to assist them at health centers, women can die from infections, severe bleeding, “high blood pressure during pregnancy” and delivery complications. These factors account for almost two-thirds of maternal deaths and all of them are avoidable.
Maternal health poses an urgent problem in India. The latest available data indicates that India’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) stands at 113 deaths per 100,000 births in comparison to the world average MMR of 11 deaths per 100,000 births in higher-income countries. In fact, pregnancy complications are the leading “cause of death among girls between 15 and 19 years of age” in India. These statistics also reflect the broader issues with Indian healthcare — it is inaccessible, unaffordable and low quality. Although it will be difficult to reform the entire healthcare system in India, organizations have a commitment to improving maternal and newborn health in India.
ARMMAN is one such organization working to improve maternal and newborn health in India. This Indian nonprofit dedicates efforts to improving the quality of life for mothers and their newborns. Dr. Aparna Hegde founded ARMMAN in 2008 after witnessing the death of a pregnant woman due to circumstances that were entirely preventable with appropriate guidance. ARMMAN leverages technology to help both women and healthcare workers. So far, the organization has helped more than 26 million women and has trained more than 212,000 health workers across 19 Indian states.
Apps and mobile technology play a central role in ARMMAN’s programs, providing education and monitoring the well-being of pregnant women. The organization’s Mobile Academy is a maternal and child healthcare course that aims to keep health workers up-to-date with “knowledge of life-saving preventative health behaviors and improve the quality of their engagement with new and expecting mothers and their families.” The audio-based training can be accessed via voice call and is available in five of the most common local languages. Another project, mMitra, allows pregnant women and mothers of infants to access “a free mobile voice call service,” which provides “timed and targeted preventive care information weekly/bi-weekly directly to the phones of the enrolled women.” mMitra has reached 2.5 million women so far.
Arogya Sakhi Program
AMMAN’s Arogya Sakhi program is a home-based child and maternal care program. Arogya Sakhi “trains women health entrepreneurs (Arogya Sakhis) from communities in resource-poor rural areas to provide home-based preventive care” and other necessary tests and screenings to “ensure early referral during antenatal and infancy period.” This service is essential because healthcare workers attend only 37.4% of births in rural areas, a gaping difference in comparison to a birth attendance rate of 73.4% in urban areas. Arogya Sakhi helps diminish this gap, giving women the skills to help their communities. Armed with medical kits and an app that guides them through proper procedures, the Arogya Sakhis assist people in their community with care, diagnosis and births. The Arogya Sakhis charge a minimal fee for their services, allowing them to gain financial stability and pull themselves out of poverty.
Maternal health remains a pressing issue in developing countries, but organizations like ARMMAN work to improve access to high-quality healthcare services for women and their children.
– Alison Ding