July 23, 2021 1:14:22 am
Close to a 1,000 health workers in Vadodara, including Accredi-ted Social Health Activists (ASHA), have been deployed to conduct a survey on family planning techniques preferred by residents.
Armed with a survey form, the health workers are conducting a door-to-door survey, interviewing women of the household about family planning and contraceptives being used. Health officials of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) told this paper that while the survey is an annual state-wide exercise of the government of Gujarat, it has been extended to all households for the first time this year.
Besides other points, the form has details of address, name of the aanganwadi near the responder’s house, whether the family belongs to BPL category, ration card number, the “family’s religion” and “family’s caste”. The 14 main columns aim to understand how many children the family have and what contraceptives are the couples in families using.
The form includes 14 questions for the women of the family regarding the relationship with the men, the religion and caste of the household, the age, whether married or unmarried, currently pregnant or not, the kind of contraceptives being used, number of surviving children, whether the family desires any more children, whether the family plans to adopt any practices for contraception, whether the surviving children attend school and if anyone in the household suffers from any disease.
The form also has a separate column seeking Aadhaar card details of the family members. It further seeks bank details of the family as well as the number of children they have under age one and between one and five years.
When contacted, Dr Devesh Patel, VMC Medical Officer for Health, said that the ongoing survey in the city was a state government initiative and not part of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) or the census. “This is for our own health programmes. We have 150 health workers and 750 ASHA workers who are conducting the survey. It is an annual exercise and nothing unusual. So far, the survey was conducted in specific settlements. But this time we have expanded it to the posh areas of the city as we have staff available and the Covid-19 surveillance has bridged some gap between health workers and families in upscale neighbourhoods. In pre-Covid19 times, many posh residential colonies would not allow government health workers to step inside but it has changed and so we do not have a sample this time but we are trying to cover all households.”
Patel said that it was not mandatory for the responders to mention the religion as the important aspect of the survey was to gather details of “family planning and population size only”.
Additional Director of Health and Family Welfare Department of Gujarat, Nilam Patel said, “All local bodies have been instructed to regularise all routine health work and it is up to the local bodies what they wish to prioritise first. The family health survey is conducted every year in January, February and March across the state uniformly, but it could not take place last year owing to the pandemic. As part of the survey, the database of family households is updated in our software and accordingly, family planning and other programmes for child and maternal health are planned.”
The workers also carry a backpack, armed with condoms and contraceptive pills to be handed out to the women, who seem unaware about the possible contraceptives available. An ASHA worker, who has been conducting the survey in South zone of the city said, “We have been told to speak to the women of the family. Usually, the survey is conducted in low income group areas and settlements where literacy is low but this time the residential colonies in upper middle class areas are also being covered. Surprisingly, the families are as unaware about contraceptives as the ones which are perceived illiterate. Many women tell us that the onus of contraception is usually on them as men do not like using condoms but we carry some with us and hand out to some willing families.”
The questions of the form on family planning being used by the VMC also feature as a component of the periodic National Family Health Survey (NFHS), which has so far seen five series in Gujarat, the last was conducted in 2019-20 after a gap of four years. The NFHS survey also aims to gather information on topics such as preschool education, disability, access to a toilet facility, death registration, bathing practices during menstruation, and methods and reasons for abortion. However, the VMC survey, officials say, is mainly aimed to gather details of the population and only family planning techniques.
(With inputs from Sohini Ghosh in Ahmedabad)
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