The study has a depressing name: The Million Death Study.
But its latest set of data, published in the journal The Lancet on Wednesday, is anything but depressing when it comes to the topic of childhood deaths in India.
India has the tragic distinction of being a world leader in childhood deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, the death toll for children under the age of five was 29 million — a fifth of global childhood deaths.
That’s an overwhelming number — but it could have been much worse. The findings from the study say that the overall child mortality rate slowed down significantly. The total deaths for that 16-year period would have been an estimated 39 million, based on deaths in the year 2000 of nearly 2.5 million children in that age bracket.
It’s a challenge to track childhood deaths in India, where most deaths, especially of children, happen at home and without medical attention, says Prabhat Jha, head of the Centre for Global Health Research of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the lead researcher of the study.
“Hospital data are good in the small number of hospitals that are monitored, but most hospitals don’t record causes well,” says Jha.