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December 18, 2011

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Caring for pregnant migrant workers

With the number of women from outside Shanghai on the rise, Yangpu District is reaching out to pregnant migrant workers, making sure they get proper maternity checks to help protect the health of both mother and child, reports Fei Lai.

Chinese women are known for "holding up half the sky." Migrant women workers are no exception.

They've come from rural areas to the big city and face more employment and career development challenges than their male counterparts.

Yangpu District is showing special care to this group, especially pregnant migrant workers, valuing their roles and rights.

Through October, free basic pregnancy exams were provided to 1,087 pregnant migrant workers in the district.

The infant mortality rate in the district has decreased from 14 in a thousand in 2010 to 11.7 in a thousand this year. The birth defect rate at local hospitals decreased from 6 in a thousand in 2010 to 2.4 in a thousand this year.

Statistics from recent years showed that in 2010, the total number of migrant women workers of childbearing age reached 112,779 in Yangpu District, increasing by 58,113 from 2008. The total population of migrant workers in the district has reached around 275,000.

The local public health authority has worked hard to ensure pregnant migrant workers receive medical care since they discovered that most high-risk pregnant women in the district were from other parts of the country.

"Free pregnancy examinations for migrant women workers is one way to reduce the infant mortality rate and guarantee the safety of both mother and baby," says Li Jianhong, an official from Yangpu District's Population and Family Planning Commission.

"Protecting the legitimate rights of migrant women workers can improve opportunities for this group and give them access to basic public services," Li adds.

Migrant women workers living in Yangpu District for more than six months, who fit the one-child policy and receive pregnancy examinations, can get free health checks at local community health centers.

Those who receive pregnancy checkups at four hospitals - Xinhua Hospital, Changhai Hospital, Yangpu District Central Hospital and Red House Hospital - can submit corresponding invoices to the district's maternity and infant center for reimbursement of 150 yuan (US$23.6).

Wang Yanping from Anhui Province left her hometown with her husband and started working in Shanghai three years ago. She is now a mother of a one-month-old baby girl.

"Giving birth to a baby is not easy," Wang says. "Fortunately, I can have both a subsidy and pregnancy examination. As a migrant worker, even a little support can make a big difference in my life."

To make sure all pregnant migrant workers know about this policy, community doctors and nurses shoulder the responsibility of spreading the news. Some even go door-to-door.

Liu Lijuan, a doctor from Wujiaochang Public Health Service Center, remembers one pregnant migrant worker didn't believe it when she was told about the free examination.

Gradually, more and more female migrant workers heard the news. Only a few came for the reimbursement in the first several months, but now around 100 people each month collect the money.

The local medical team has tried to ensure all migrant women workers are aware of this free service.

Shen Ming, a doctor from the district's maternity and infant center, says it helps ensure pregnant migrant workers receive good care early in pregnancy.

"We want these women to enjoy quality public services and feel like the local government cares about them," Shen says. "Doctors from our center will also contact those women workers to track their reimbursement."

Caring more about migrant women workers, the government has kicked off a program to provide free gynecological exams to 1,000 migrant women aged from 25 to 40.

"With more burdens in life, migrant women workers often overlook their own health," says Li, the Population and Family Planning Commission official.

"We hope to help them learn more about their own health while also preventing diseases or, at the very least, diagnosing them at an early stage when better treatment options exist," he adds.

The gynecological examination covers 12 towns in the district and will last for two months. Each day, around 70 migrant women workers get examined.

Youyun Club, established by Yangpu District's Population and Family Planning Commission in 2008, was one of the organizers for the gynecological examination program.

The club aims to reduce the birth defect rate and raise the overall quality of maternity and infant care in the district. The club offers classes, consulting and guidance to couples planning to have a child.


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