ASHAs to be paid for providing Home-based Newborn Care in rural India: A policy decision of the Ministry of Health

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ASHA Anjana Uikey visits Meena and her newborn baby in her home to undergo some health check-ups, Bodli village, Maharastra. Photo by Andy Hall / Save the Children

Nearly 800,000 rural women community health activists (ASHA) in India will be paid Rs. 250 per neonate for providing home-based newborn care in their villages by home visiting each mothers and neonate. The landmark policy decision was approved by the Mission Steering Group, the highest body of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Government of India, in a recent meeting in Delhi. The meeting was chaired by India’s Minister of Health, Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad, and was attended by the Minister for rural development Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Member Planning Commission Ms. Syeda Hamid, and secretaries of various ministries of the Govt. of India and of the states. Principal secretary, Health and Family Welfare Mr. Chandramouli, special secretary health and director NRHM, Mr. P.K. Pradhan, and joint secretary in-charge Reproductive and Child Health Mr. Amit Mohan Prasad represented the health ministry. Dr. Abhay Bang, the originator of Home-Based Newborn Care was also present. 

Out of 27 million live births every year in India, nearly 1 million die within first 28 days of life. This constitutes the largest component of India’s infant mortality rate which is lagging at 50 per 1000 live births. Home-Based Newborn Care (HBNC), a new approach innovated and proven in field by SEARCH, an NGO working in Gadchiroli district, has now been widely accepted. The 11th Five Year Plan of India recommends this approach as the main strategy to reduce IMR in India.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already prepared and introduced training modules to train ASHAs to deliver HBNC. With the newly approved performancelinked financial incentive, HBNC will now become a regular activity of ASHA.

The Health Minister Mr. Azad underscored the importance of this training and of need to keep health records of each neonate and of the home visits made by ASHA so that a good quality service of home-based newborn care is actually delivered and can be monitored.

  1. How can I get involves with the training of ASHA’s as a Lactation Professiona who has had experience working with low SES groups in India?

  2. Health Professionals have a lot to rejoice in the new Govt.of Inda’s decision to recruit this valuable work force of the ASHA’s to reach every villlage community in India.
    The intiation rate of breastfeeding is very high in India but exclusive breastfeeding rates are low at the 6 month point. Work with breastfeeding mothers shows that they need various forms of support, some counselling and some financial or societal, to help them continue with exclusive breastfeeding.
    Exclusive breastfeeding at least up to six months has been shown to improve the health outcomes of the newborn, the mother and family. India’s village microcosm can help every new mother continue with breastfeeding if awareness of the benefits and possible deleterious effects from the lack of it can be reached to village communities.
    ASHA’s can be trained to look out for the problems that emerge and be trained to resolve them at the grass-roots level.
    How can I get involved with the training of ASHA’s as a Lactation Professional who has had experience working with low SES groups in India?
    Improving the skills of the ASHA’s within India’s social set-up can produce a high rate of successful breastfeeding at the 6-month mark.
    (I can be reached at

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