Prithviraj Chavan writes for Firstpost: Committed to improving child healthcare

By Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra

As I approach the completion of four years in office, it's time to reflect on what has been achieved and what's left to be done. A holistic approach to governance and how to define 'progress' has always been my objective. So, while I work hard to attract industry to the state, I have to ensure that human development indicators show significant improvement too.

 Prithviraj Chavan writes for Firstpost: Committed to improving child healthcare

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. AFP

I want to refer in particular to Maharashtra's record on nutrition. Maharashtra is the wealthiest, second most populous and third largest state in India.

Yet, in 2006, as per the National Family Health Survey then, 39 percent of children under the age of two were stunted. This prompted the government to set up the State Nutrition Mission that initially focused on 15 districts where the problem of child under-nutrition was most acute. It was later extended to all districts in Maharashtra.

The mission - which sought to extend and improve the quality of child healthcare, nutrition and development - got into its second phase in 2010, with technical support from UNICEF. This phase focuses on scaling up delivery of interventions for children under age two and their mothers, relying heavily on community-based approaches.

I'm proud of its success. As per an independent survey conducted in 2012 by the International Institute for Population Science, stunting among children had fallen from 39 percent in 2005-06 to 23 percent in 2012. Severe stunting decreased from 15 percent in 2005-06 to 8 percent in 2012. There was critical improvement in ante-natal care, breastfeeding and the use of iodised salt.

From the beginning of my term, I was clear that this mission had to have the highest political commitment. My plan to support this effort was based on three pillars: provide leadership and systematic guidance, put in place the capability to look at data and create an agenda, and strong execution through officers dedicated solely to the mission.

Our efforts have paid off and the mission received international validation. Among this was a study in 'Lancet', one of the world's leading medical journals, lauding our achievements.

For me, there is no leadership without accountability for nutrition. Maharashtra has shown the way to the rest of the country. Other states are looking to replicate Maharashtra's nutrition mission.

Projects of this scale require the highest political commitment. I define growth not just by the corporations that come to the state but also by how many families we move out of poverty.

This will continue to remain my focus in the days to come.

Updated Date: Jul 25, 2014 13:52:22 IST



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