Although significant progress has been made in achieving the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more effort is needed in maternal and child survival. Globally, 2.9 million infants still die each year in the first 6 months of life, and newborn deaths account for 44% of all deaths amongst children younger than 5 years old. Eight hundred women die in pregnancy or childbirth every day.
Four in every 5 of these newborn deaths are the result of preventable and treatable conditions. They include complications from prematurity, low birth weight, childbirth itself, and infection.
Evidence suggests that well-structured and thoughtful education programs in low-income countries can decrease preventable neonatal deaths by over 50%. This is achieved where local health care providers attending pregnant women and their newborns are trained in neonatal resuscitation and elements of essential newborn care, including early and exclusive breastfeeding and continuous skin-to-skin care.
Consequently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has launched the ‘Helping 100,000 Babies Survive and Thrive’ initiative, together with the pediatric societies of India, Ethiopia and Nigeria – 3 of the 6 countries with the highest number of preventable newborn deaths. A memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed in June 2014, and country plans will also be developed to ensure the supply and distribution of life-saving commodities such as ventilation bags & masks, suction devices, and antibiotics.
This initiative supports the UN’s Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP), ratified in 2014, by providing education modules on helping babies breathe, essential care for small babies, and antenatal corticosteroids for preterm birth. The modules are delivered using innovative and complementary methods, supporting and empowering front-line health providers to improve the quality of local services.
This new educational effort is an example of how pediatricians worldwide are working through their national professional organizations to assist in the quest for improved newborn survival rates by supporting the plans of health ministries and helping countries reach ENAP goals.