Sunflower oil massage can bring down neonatal mortality: Study
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.