State to buy warmers for underweight newborns in rural areas

Taking a cue from innovative ideas to tackle everyday problems, Maharashtra health department has now proposed to buy "cheap, innovative" warmers for premature and low birth weight babies in rural parts of the state.

These warmers, produced by a company called Embrace, operate on electric and water heaters. Babies can be wrapped in these warmers. These will enable healthcare workers who need to transport newborns to hospitals to control the temperature, said officials.

Health department has proposed to procure the Embrace Infant Warmer for 350 tribal healthcare facilities. "The warmer will be used by our anganwadi worker when she goes to assist a delivery. They do not have proper warmers, but this will help reduce risk of losing underweight children," said Minister for Public Health Suresh Shetty.

Low-birth weight babies are prone to hypothermia, in which baby's body temperature falls below 36.5 C, and decreases the chances of survival. The prevalence of low birth weight babies is 30 per cent in Maharashtra and very low birth weight babies is 8 per cent.

A majority of these deliveries is conducted at sub-centers and primary health centers in the interiors. These primary health centres are not well-equipped and infants have to be transported to the nearest district or women's hospital. The transport of the infant is usually challenging, requiring five to six hours of travel. At present, 34 district centres are functional in Maharashtra. While 272 baby warmers are installed at these centres, 315 are being procured. The department is preparing a project implementation plan (PIP), which will be included in the upcoming budget. The department is looking for an allocation of Rs 10 crore.

"While we have plans to buy more incubators for hospitals, these warmers are aimed at improving the survival rate of babies born in tribal and rural parts," said Shetty.

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