Many north-Indian parents prefer not to get their girl child treated for heart ailments, a recent study published in online journal Heart Asia has revealed. Surprisingly, this is not the case with boys who often get proper treatment. Even if the health facilities offer free-of-cost treatment, the parents would rather not get their girl child treated.
This gender bias, according to the research, is prevalent in both urban and rural communities of North India.
The researchers said that gender bias suggests deep-rooted attitudes towards the societal value of girls, given that financial imperatives are often cited for gender inequalities in India.
India's declining sex ratio is already under the scanner of international child rights organisation, United Nations International Child Emergency Fund(UNICEF), which is more prevalent in north-Indian cities.
The study is based on the analysis of 519 children with congenital heart defect or rheumatic heart disease between 2009 and 2014 at a specialist cardiac centre in North India that provided free treatment under a government-funded scheme.
During the study period (three years) just 37 percent (197 cases) of referrals were for girls and most of the cases taken up were for boys. Each year, more number of boys were admitted to the facility for treatment than girls.
The findings are shocking in the wake of figures, which say the prevalence of coronary heart disease in India is 2.25 to 5.2 per 1000 live births, with an almost equal gender ratio of between 1:1 and 1:1.25.
In other words, the number of heart diseases in girl children is same as that of boys, but fewer are treated.
"Given the almost equal gender prevalence, it is alarming that relatively fewer girls are brought to the tertiary centres and even fewer are having the required corrective procedures done," the researchers wrote in the study.
Although the study has not elaborated on the potential causes behind this biased trend, it does highlight that social pressures could be a precursor to such actions.
"The deep-rooted social issues (beyond just the economic causes) need to be addressed by medical professionals as well as policy makers to ensure equal [access to] healthcare for both genders," the study added.