Family Health Survey

Cause for concern

Print edition : April 14, 2017
High tobacco and alcohol usage and widespread violence against women are some of the disturbing takeaways from the latest family health survey.

NATIONAL Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), while showcasing the improvement in various health metrics in several States over the past decade, also pinpoints the need to cover a lot of ground in several others, besides shining a light on the overall state of health and well-being.

The survey, the fourth in the NFHS series, provides essential data on health and family welfare and emerging issues in this area for each State and Union Territory and, for the first time, district-level estimates of various indicators. The International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, which was the government-designated nodal agency to conduct the survey, gathered information from 601,509 households, 699,686 women, and 103,525 men.

One of the key takeaways from the survey pertains to the pernicious practices of tobacco and alcohol usage among both men and women. Among the key States in terms of population, Telangana and Chhattisgarh, had the dubious distinction of having more than half of their male population consuming alcohol, followed by Tamil Nadu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand. Jammu and Kashmir had the lowest percentage of men consuming alcohol, followed by Gujarat and Rajasthan (all three scoring 20 per cent). The north-eastern States had a significantly higher percentage than the national average, with the number being above 50 per cent in at least four States. They also scored high in alcohol consumption among women, with Arunachal Pradesh (26.3 per cent) leading the pack followed by Sikkim (23.0 per cent).

Tobacco usage was also shockingly high among men and women in all the north-eastern States. Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Manipur had over 70 per cent of their men using some form of tobacco, while Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura ranked among the top in the number of female tobacco users. In both categories, the region’s figures were far greater than the rest of India, where the key States of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Bihar had at least 50 per cent of their male population using some kind of tobacco. Among women, the key States were led by Chhattisgarh, followed by Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.

Another disturbing indicator from the survey was the prevalence of domestic violence against women and the occurrence of violence during pregnancy. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, followed by Bihar and Tamil Nadu, were the worst performers; in all four States, at least 40 per cent of the women had experienced some form of domestic violence. The States with the least incidence were Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Kerala.

The southern States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana also figured among the top in the percentage of women who had experienced violence during pregnancy, followed by West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Kerala had the least incidence, followed by Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.