TIRUNELVELI: The introduction of a new data-driven system may be saving the lives of many pregnant women in Tirunelveli. While it is early days yet, officials said, since the launch of the ThaicareNellai network, the district has recorded only three maternal deaths between April and July.
In comparison, it recorded 14 deaths in the same period in 2021. The system, aimed at improving maternal health, uses multiple data points to assess risk, stage interventions and ensure safe deliveries. Active since March, the programme was formally launched in May.
“While handling patients’ data during the pandemic, we got the idea of using a similar framework to tackle the district’s high maternal mortality ratio (MMR),” explained Dr M Aazmi, a professor of community medicine at the Tirunelveli Medical College.
“Collector V Vishnu took the initiative forward. Rather than just analysing the mortality factors following deaths, this framework helps mitigate health risks,” she said, adding that while Tamil Nadu has realised its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target in this area, Tirunelveli is still lagging.
The ThaicareNellai network involves the collection and entry of data, risk categorisation and mapping of risk factors, and lastly, counselling of patients after each hospital visit. These counsellors are from the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC). As many as 52 primary health centres (PHCs) and urban primary health centres (UPHCs), eight taluk and non-taluk hospitals, and the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital are part of the network.
So far, safe deliveries facilitated in 2,018 high-risk pregnancies
Mukkodal block medical officer Ashraf Ali said over 20,000 automated risk flags have been created to help identify risk levels at an early stage. Risk level is determined based on data under nearly 55 categories ranging from different health issues in previous pregnancies, other health conditions to teenage pregnancies.
As a result, since May, 4,600 pregnancies were identified as high-risk in the district and safe deliveries have been facilitated in 2,018 of these cases so far. In comparison, the State government’s Pregnancy and Infant Cohort Monitoring and Evaluation Scheme (PIC ME) only identified 1,750 high-risk mothers in the district since May.
Data from antenatal visits of 83.68% of mothers were also incorporated into the system, and targeted campaigns are being planned to trace left-out mothers. Officials said all staff - from nurses to senior doctors - play an important role in programme. If a high-risk patient is not contacted, the ThaicareNellai network alerts the doctors concerned, said Health Services deputy director Krishnaleela.
“I will also receive a red flag alert about it. If even I don’t resolve the issue, it automatically gets escalated to the Collector. This framework has saved many pregnant women, and will do more wonders in the days to come,” she added.
Patients too have felt the difference. One of the women, who has been visiting the Kallur PHC during her second pregnancy, told TNIE, “Compared to the care I was given during my first pregnancy, so much has changed.”