Female Education and its impact on Healthcare

Female Education and its impact on Healthcare

By Murlidhar Shrivastav

The impact of female education has a broad range of positive health outcomes ranging from decreasing maternal mortality, reduction in fertility, keeping smaller family size, healthier life style, decrease in infant and child mortality to increase in productivity and economic growth of a country.

Many researches in the developing countries including India have consistently reported that increase in woman's education level is directly related to the decreased rate of maternal mortality. Maternal mortality is one of the strongest predictor of the health of a nation. It is an indicator of inequality and reflects disparity between rich and poor nations.


Maternal mortality ratio

Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman from any causes related to pregnancy or its management. Maternal mortality ratio [MMR] denotes maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births. The fifth millennium development goal [MDG-5] put forward by the United Nations calls for reduction in global MMR by 75% from 1990 which was 400, to 109 in 2015. But it is reported that India fell short by 30 percentage points with a MMR of 140 in 2015. Even today, every 10 minutes a woman dies in India from pregnancy and complications of child birth.

WHO conducted a global survey of 287,035 women giving birth in health care institution between 2005-2008 in 24 randomly selected countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia. In the survey main independent variable was number of years of formal education categorized according to the UNESCO international standard of classification of education. They found a statistically significant variation in risk of maternal mortality and the number of years of education. Women with no education had almost 4 times the risk and those between one and six years of education had almost twice the risk of maternal mortality compared with woman with more than 12 years of education. A Canadian survey has also reported reduction in maternal mortality with female education.

A publication in May 4, 2012 issue of PLoS ONE from Chile using 50 years data [1957 to 2007] has found that most important factor in reducing maternal mortality is educational level of the women. For every additional year of maternal education there was a corresponding decrease in MMR of 29.3 per 100,000 live births.

So far as maternal mortality, fertility rates, small family size and overall health and well being of women in Indian context is concerned, the women from Kerala, Tamilnadu and Maharasthra which have higher female education levels are much well of in almost all health parameters than Assam, UP, and Bihar. According to the NFHS, Mother's education is highly correlated with the level of malnutrition among children. Children of illiterate mothers are three times more likely to be severely undernourished as children of mothers with at least a high school education. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have the highest proportion of undernourished children and Kerala has the lowest, consistent with the levels of education in these states.

Data and information available at present suggests a strong relationship between the level of female education and positive health outcomes. All programmes aimed at providing medical care to decrease maternal mortality, reduce fertility, keep smaller family size, lead a healthier life style, and decrease in infant and child mortality, may not have success until unless carried out in accordance with improved availability of education for females.