Vital statistics in Malaya are of limited value but annual reports show that the infant mortality in Penang Municipality is 125, in Singapore Municipality 172.2, in the Straits Settlements 165.28, and in the State of Kedah 137 per thousand births. The tables show a similarity to those of large English towns fifty years ago.
Poverty, ignorance and superstition account for many of these deaths and much maternal ill-health. Children are seldom taken out in infancy and houses are frequently dark, stuffy and closely-shuttered. Solid carbohydrate food is given to infants even during the first month. Congenital Syphilis causes a number of deaths and in an investigation in Singapore of mothers whose infants died in the first year of life 30.9 per cent. were Wassermann-positive.
Increasing use is made of maternity wards in the Hospitals and in Kuala Lumpur there is a Chinese maternity hospital with a Chinese woman doctor on the staff. The infant death-rate among Malays is much higher than that of other races, who are more willing to make use of the hospitals.
In the rural areas labour commonly takes place under the most primitive conditions with no help except that of an untrained handy-woman (bidan). A better midwifery service for these areas is gradually being developed and Malay women are being trained to replace the old "bidan" in the villages.
Education is doing something to inculcate modern views on the bringing up of children. The teaching of personal hygiene to teachers and pupils in the vernacular girls' schools is proving of value, and the Girl Guide movement has given an added interest to this.
Medical inspection of school children is more complete in the towns than in the rural areas. Dental caries, skin conditions, intestinal worms, and enlarged tonsils are common in the junior schools.
Tables are given of vital statistics and records of school medical inspection from the reports of the health officers of the Straits Settlements, Singapore, and Kedah. W. H. Peacock.