Objective: The objective of this paper is to examine the impact of the Health Service Research Project of the Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC) on mothers and infants in Budhni village, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan.
Methods: Information from the PMRC records on the socioeconomic and demographic situation over the last 10 years and anthropometric measurements made on all infants from 1986-96 were collected and analysed.
Results: The demographic data showed a number of changes, namely a reduction in birth rate and improvements in perinatal, neonatal, infant and child mortality rates. Literacy in the village was poor (27 and 39% literate in 1986 and 1996, respectively) and female literacy showed no improvement (14%). Improvements in sanitation and in the water supply introduced by the PMRC had limited success, as clean water was subsequently contaminated by unclean hands and utensils, and 50% of the population continued to use open fields for sanitation. In 1986 only 27% of children 0-5 years were vaccinated, but by 1996, 96% of children had completed polio, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) and bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination programmes and 95% of women of child-bearing age were vaccinated against tetanus. Protection against tetanus reduced neonatal deaths and from 1993 onwards there have been no further cases. Anthropometric data for the period 1986-96 for infants (0-24 months) showed that at birth the majority of infants were close to the 50th National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) centile for weight and length, and only 5% of birth-weights were less than 2.5 kg. Growth charts showed faltering in length and weight and by 24-months length in both boys and girls was below the 3rd NCHS centile and weights were just above.
Conclusions: Reductions in child mortality have occurred over the period 1986-96. However, the slow progress in adopting hygienic practices, despite health education, and the low literacy rates, particularly in women, may hamper continued improvement.