Sun­flower oil mas­sage can bring down neona­tal mor­tal­ity: Study

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent

LUCKNOW: Did you know that slight mod­i­fi­ca­tions in tra­di­tional mas­sage on in­fants can bring down the neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate? Ac­cord­ing to a study be­ing car­ried out by a city based vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion — Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment Lab (CEL) — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), mas­sage, when done in the right way, can work won­ders on a child’s brain apart from in­creas­ing his/her im­mu­nity.

Of­fi­cials with the CEL, which had bagged the pres­ti­gious Grand Chal­lenge Canada (GCC) in 2012, 2013 and 2014, claimed that the the­ory could be a boon in min­imis­ing the alarm­ing neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate here in In­dia.

“In­dia, es­pe­cially UP, has high neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate and the sim­ple ‘mas­sage the­ory’ can bring it down by a great ex­tent,” said Dr Vishwajeet, di­rec­tor and prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist, CEL.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, if the tra­di­tional and more pop­u­lar oils (co­conut, olive and mus­tard) are re­placed with sun­flower seed oil in mas­sag­ing in­fants, it can yield a ‘magic ef­fect’ on them. “Sun­flower seed oil is high in li­noleic acid, which ac­cel­er­ates the child’s skin growth. And skin, as we know, is the largest or­gan and also pro­tects body from deadly in­fec­tion,” the prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist said.

Other than this, the sun­flower seed oil also helps in strength­en­ing of bones and in pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary nutri­tion to the body, which of­ten for­ti­fies its de­fense mech­a­nism.

The study also de­bunks the belief that rough and vig­or­ous mas­sage is more ef­fec­tive on the chil­dren. “The belief that the mas­sage that makes a child cry is more ef­fec­tive is ab­so­lutely wrong. In­stead, gen­tle and ten­der mas­sage is far more fruit­ful and helps in de­vel­op­ment of the brain,” said Aarti Ku­mar, co­prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist with the CEL.

The study also ad­vises against the tra­di­tion of ap­ply­ing ‘up­tans’ (scrubs) on the in­fants and re­mov­ing vernix (waxy sub­stance on the skin of new­born). “It of­ten harms a child’s skin and makes her vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tions,” said Ku­mar. CEL’s the­ory is inspired by the study con­ducted by Dr Gary Darm­stadt, a neona­tal der­ma­tol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

While study­ing the ef­fects of mas­sage on in­fants in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, Dr Darm­stadt, also a founder mem­ber of CEL, con­cluded that if done gen­tly, sun­flower seed oil mas­sage can min­imise neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate.

How­ever, Dr Darm­stadt’s study was re­stricted to labs. On Novem­ber 1, 2014, CEL launched the study pro­gramme to as­sess the tech­nique’s ef­fect on the com­mu­nity as a whole. “It was a first-of-its-kind pro­gramme to have been launched in In­dia,” said Ku­mar.

For the pur­pose, CEL vol­un­teers short­listed around 3500 vil­lages in and around Shiv­garh block of Rae Bareli dis­trict. The vol­un­teers asked res­i­dents of half of these vil­lages to mod­ify the tra­di­tional mas­sage pat­tern and dis­trib­uted sun­flower seed oil among them to be used on the in­fants. “On the other hand, we did not coun­sel the moth­ers in the re­main­ing vil­lages,” said Ku­mar.

With the study com­plet­ing around 10 months, of­fi­cials claimed the fig­ures were as­ton­ish­ing. How­ever, the of­fi­cials said, the fi­nal find­ings would be re­leased in 2017 when the study is sched­uled to be con­cluded.

Of­fi­cials said they were hope­ful that the find­ing would bring a dras­tic change in UP as well as the en­tire coun­try.


Reg­u­lar mas­sage can work won­ders on a child’s brain apart from in­creas­ing his/her im­mu­nity.

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