Neonatal intensive care improves the survival and morbidity rates of newborns – particularly those with low birth weight (a common problem in developing countries) thus reducing the long-term impact on health costs. It then follows, that if we can improve neonatal care, we can have a significant impact on the health systems, especially in developing countries where infant mortality rates are high and resources are scarce.
The statistics of neonatal mortality are concerning. One study stated … Afghanistan has the second highest infant mortality rate in the world, with its remote Badakhshan Province having the highest rate ever recorded. Statistics in Africa are also bleak, with Nigeria reporting an infant mortality rate of 100 per 1,000 live births.
Infant mortality is one of the windows into a health system. If infants are dying, it’s an indication that the system is failing. While tertiary care centers usually provide good neonatal care, we need to improve care for newborns in the communities, where the need for these services is greatest. We should focus on simple interventions that can be provided by community hospitals or clinics.
Fortunately, there are some simple interventions (cheap and easy to implement) that can impact neonatal care. What follows is a list of some of these potentially simple interventions:
– Training in neonatal resuscitation (this includes nurses, physicians, including on-call staff at night). It is unlikely that you will find a nurse or pediatrician in community clinics who are specialized in neonatology. It’s more practical to train general providers in emergency and basic care of the newborn.
-Keep babies warm. Babies who are cold, spend their energy warming their body and therefore lose calories doing this, rather if we keep them warm, they can retain those calories for their growth
– Hand-washing. Simply enforcing this universal rule in the provision of healthcare can cut down infection and therefore mortality rates.
– Using room-air to help newborns breathes, is a possible alternative to oxygen according to some studies. In community settings where oxygen tanks may not be available, teaching providers to use this technique could save lives.
– Vitamin K – should be administered at birth to all newborns to prevent bleeding since a newborn does not have the ability to make all the neccessary components to form a clot.
I’m sure there are others, but these are just a few to plant the seed that saving newborn lives can start with simple interventions.