India’s has been wavering between thin lines of have and have not viz-a-viz robust data on health. Huge statistical gap has had an impact on country’s policy discussions because unavailability of data has led to uninformed decisions and polarized conclusions.

Recently, when NFHS-4 was released in December 2017, India unearthed  a new data source. Although, the figures of NFHS-4 and that of earlier rounds may not be strictly comparable due to differences in sample size but NFHS-4 will be a benchmark for future surveys.

The reason behind it is the fact that NFHS-4 is the first of the NFHS series that has collected data from each of India’s 29 States and all 7 Union Territories.  NFHS uses robust methods to collate data regarding the health of the country and ensures accuracy. This latest round of NFHS-4 for the first time in India’s history gives district-level estimates.

It will now repeat every three years and will help the country overcome India’s health and nutrition bottlenecks. This data set also contributed hugely to estimate disease burden and risk factors at the population level in every state and union territory of India.

What NFHS-4 has on offer:

The fourth round of National Family Health Survey covers trends on household environment and sanitation facilities, fertility rates with a huge focus on infant and child health, child mortality and nutrition. Status of women and their trends in utilizing health services in contrast with education and economic backgrounds. The data reveals that India is confronted with severe health challenges with every second woman in India is anaemic, every third child stunted and every third child underweight.

The data collected during NFHS-4 highlights better care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, immunization coverage among children and improved water and sanitation facilities. Data has also been collected on total fertility rates, maternal mortality rates, infant mortality, birth deliveries and antenatal care.

Overall, findings for the 13 States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and two Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry show promising improvements in maternal and child health and nutrition.

The fourth National Health and Family Survey also found the difference in healthcare choices of urban and rural India as well as cross-comparative statistics between institutional deliveries, fertility rates, maternal and infant mortality. It also has data on methods of birth deliveries and patterns of contraceptive use among urban and rural women.

It has established that poor nutrition is less common than reported in the last round of National Family Health Survey and Indian families are likely inclined to use improved water, sanitation and healthcare facilities.

Overall, the NFHS-4 reveals improvements in many of the key health indicators but it also points towards challenges that India is facing today. Therefore, the NFHS-4 brings to the forefront a number of emerging healthcare issues which the population is dealing with.