Let me ask you a question, what is disease responsible for most of the under 5 mortality in India? Your choices are

  • Malaria
  • TB
  • AIDS
  • None of the above

If you answered 1,2 or 3 then trust me you need to learn more about the state of the health of our country. But if you answered 4 then you know the sorry state of affairs and are aware then the real killer is Pneumonia. India loses a child every minute to pneumonia. Not surprisingly the BEMARU states lead in this statistic as well and the situation is made worse with the advent of winter in these northern states every year.

Each year, the infection kills more children than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five years of age. Global child health organizations like UNICEF have made pneumonia a key area of focus in its effort to reduce child mortality in underdeveloped countries throughout the world.

Due to the shortage of physicians in rural India, the task of diagnosing Pneumonia falls to the health workers. Now they use an old system of calculating breathing rate by asking the child to breathe in and see how many breaths the child takes per minute. Now the system is fairly inaccurate and sometimes leads to misdiagnosis which is fatal for the child.

The Philips Innovation Center in Bangalore recently launched the Children’s Automated Respiration Monitor that converts chest movements detected by accelerometers into accurate breathing counts, using algorithms aligned with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. This would help the health worker to diagnose fast breathing rates, tailored to the way children’s chests move during breathing. Accurate diagnosis would ensure that children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need, potentially preventing many of the deaths caused by pneumonia each year.

Infant mortality and under 5 child mortality in India is a big health issue. Currently despite impressive gains in the last 20 years, our infant mortality stands at 39 per 1000 live births and our under 5 child mortality stands at 54 for 2014. The discrepancy between the states is high with Kerala and Tamil Nadu having figures under 20 while Odisha and Madhya Pradesh with figures over 50 per 1000 live births. For more on these figures and how the socio – economic factors help in determining these levels please refer to this UNICEF fact sheet. For comparative figures Sweden has an infant mortality of 2 per 1,000 live births showing that even Tamil Nadu has a long way to go. Singapore leads the world on this with a rate of 1.92 per 1000 live births. Afghanistan is the world place to go in case you wanted to deliver a baby with a rate of 135 per 1000 live births.

The Philips automated respiratory monitor is 100 % made in India at a factory in Pune. The inserting thing is that this Made in India’ product would be exported globally. I am not aware of the price of this product, but surely the domestic manufacturing would help the availability of the product especially to some of the poorest regions of the country. Currently the product is undergoing field trials.

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