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Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance (SHDS), Birbhum, West Bengal

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The Birbhum Population Project was initiated by the Government of West Bengal in 2008 to foster health and demographic research for innovations in health care. The establishment of a comprehensive Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) is hoped to improve the understanding of diseases, and promote realistic solutions to tackle major public health problems.

Four blocks of Birbhum district, namely Suri-I, Rajnagar, Mohammad bazar and Sainthia, have been chosen for surveillance, taking into consideration socio economic status, urbanization status, relative proportions of tribal and caste populations, and availability of infrastructure. The total surveyed population was 59,395 of which 51% are male. About 34% of the heads of household belong to schedule castes, about 10% are schedule tribes and 6% belong to other backward castes.

Data collected thus far demonstrates that the percentage of home deliveries dropped from 29% in 2010 to 25% in 2011, while delivery at the district hospital increased from 38% in 2010 to 46% in 2011. Data also shows that a significant number of families in the area left the habit of smoking and smokeless tobacco. SHDS surveyors were able to successfully generate awareness among villagers regarding the harmful after-effects of smoking.

SHDS plans to venture into the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, mental morbidity, and behavioural therapy interventions for childhood anaemia as areas for investigation at the community level. SHDS also hopes to obtain funding for the establishment of an urban HDSS site to complement its rural activities and also to establish a laboratory to support their community based research activities.

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