Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Friday, 4 June 2010 11:09 UK

Health Check: Indian infants


In rural India a trial has been using women's groups to spread the word about safe childbirth and how to care for newborns

Around 4 million babies worldwide die each year in the first month of their lives.

In rural India the Ekjut trial has been using women's groups to spread the word about safe childbirth and how to care for newborns.

The trial set up groups of women who had recently given birth in Jharkand and Orissa.

Each group met once a month with a local woman acting as a facilitator. She led discussions on why the group thought the babies were dying. Often the answer was because of evil spirits.

Through the discussions the group began to learn that poor hygiene or nutrition, or lack of access to medical care, are the causes of death. The women then came up with their own ideas of how to improve the outlook for the mothers and babies.

These included clean home delivery kits, ways of keeping the newborns warm, and an emergency fund to pay for transport to clinics.

The trial has just reported results in The Lancet. The researchers from University College London and Ekjut, a voluntary organisation in India who collaborated in this trial, reported that by the second year there was a 45% drop in deaths in newborn babies compared with similar areas where there were no groups. And there was a half as much post natal depression in the new mothers in the groups.

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