Prospective Community Studies in Developing Countries

By Monica Das Gupta; Peter Aaby et al. | Go to book overview

3 Determinants of Rates of Early Childhood Sickness and Death, and of Long Birth Intervals: Evidence from the Khanna Study, Rural Punjab, India, 1954-1969

JOHN B. WYON


3.1 Introduction

3.1.1 Longitudinal community health research

This chapter reports selected findings from a longitudinal study of community- based rates of deaths, sicknesses, and birth intervals in eleven villages of the Punjab, India. These findings were the result of broader studies of births, deaths, migrations, and population dynamics, and a test of birth-control methods villagers could use on their own to cause lower birth rates in some village communities.

In 1951 John E. Gordon responded to worldwide concern with rapid growth of populations. He agreed to direct a test of the capacity of birth-control methods to reduce the birth rate of a rural population in India.1 To him, all inhabitants of a village defined the obvious population unit. During the subsequent seven years from April 1953 to March 1960 a field staff conducted observations by monthly visits to all homes in eleven villages near Khanna in the Punjab. In 1969 a small staff conducted a six-month follow-up study in all households of the same villages.

Gordon affirmed that (a) the intent of the birth-control programme was to reduce problems arising from rapid population growth, and (b) that no detailed, accurate knowledge then existed from rural communities in India (or anywhere else) on the three demographic dimensions of their population growth--the community-based rates of birth, death, and migrations. Even less was known about their determinants. He also believed that the determinants of these rates influence each other.

Gordon judged regular home visits in the villages hosting the birth-control

____________________
The request from the IUSSP Committee on Anthropological Demography to prepare a paper for a seminar in Senegal in 1991 provided an effective stimulus to work on this material once again.
1
By agreement with the Government of India the selected birth-control methods did not require the intervention of a physician; virtually no physicians were practising medicine in rural India. The methods were: rhythm, withdrawal, salt solution on a cotton pad, contraceptive paste on a cotton pad, and foaming contraceptive vaginal tablets.

-54-

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