In India, the infant mortality rate in 2020 stood at 27 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although this number is still striking, India has noted a steady decline in infant mortality rates over the years. In 2000, India’s infant mortality rate stood at 53 deaths per 1,000 live births, meaning the rate has halved over the past 20 years. This positive trend may be explained on a macro-level by increased standards of living in the country. On a micro-level, local initiatives are helping to provide affordable maternal care in India for women from lower-income backgrounds.
Maternal Care in India
Although the International Monetary Fund considers India to be “the fastest-growing major economy in the world,” this economic growth does not necessarily translate into increased standards of living for all as many people still live in poverty and struggle to support themselves financially.
Maternal care in India is unequal, with private hospitals offering higher quality care than public hospitals. However, the cost of delivery in private hospitals is hefty. An article published in 2012 by Knowledge at Wharton staff placed the average cost of delivery in a private hospital in Hyderabad city at around $500.
While this cost is not representative of all private hospitals in India, the average cost of private hospital deliveries is out of reach for most lower-income women, considering that Indian female casual workers earned an average monthly income of approximately $69 in 2020. As a result, many Indian women rely on public hospitals, which often lack resources, trained professionals and equipment to provide adequate maternal care.
LifeSpring Hospitals: A Social Enterprise
The LifeSpring chain of hospitals was founded in 2008 by Anant Kumar as a joint venture between HLL Lifecare Limited (an Indian government enterprise) and Acumen Fund (a U.S. social venture capital firm). Their goal is to offer lower-income women low-cost but high-quality maternity care.
LifeSpring hospitals charge considerably lower rates than private hospitals, with a normal delivery costing $80 and a C-section costing $180, according to the 2012 article by Knowledge at Wharton. By focusing on para-skilling, specialization, flexible staffing and high-asset use, the enterprise is able to offer affordable services that are not out of reach for lower-income individuals.
According to the LifeSpring Hospitals website, the hospital chain currently has 10 hospitals running out of Hyderabad. The hospitals provide affordable maternal care in India “at approximately 30-50% lower than the market prices.” Additionally, the services the hospitals provide are “backed up by experience gained from 70,000+ deliveries over a period of 13 years,” the website says.
Helping India’s Impoverished
“LifeSpring seeks to lessen the burden of rising health costs on the nation’s low-income communities thereby increasing their disposable income,” the HLL Lifecare Limited website says. Furthermore, “the mandate of the company is to operate small-sized (20 bed) maternity hospitals in the proximity of urban slums, catering to pregnant women whose husbands work in the informal sector and who have no health coverage,” HLL Lifecare highlights. On top of maternal care, the hospitals offer pediatric care, laboratory testing, pharmacy services and community health care education, among other services.
By 2012, the hospitals delivered an average of 6,000 babies per year and performed better than other hospitals of similar sizes, delivering three to four times more babies on average per month. LifeSpring has goals to open up at least 100 more hospitals offering high-quality, affordable maternal care to disadvantaged women. This low-cost service is changing the lives of thousands of women every year by ensuring accessible and high-quality maternal care, thereby reducing maternal mortality rates in India.
– Alexandra Piat