Addressing Critical Knowledge Gaps in Newborn Health

Newborn survival in low resource settings—are we delivering?

Newborn survival in low resource settings—are we delivering?
By JE Lawn, K Kerber, C Enweronu-Laryea, O Massee Bateman,
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology


The annual toll of losses resulting from poor pregnancy outcomes include half a million maternal deaths, more than three million stillbirths, of whom at least one million die during labour and 3.8 million neonatal deaths—up to half on the first day of life. Neonatal deaths account for an increasing proportion of child deaths (now 41%) and must be reduced to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 for child survival. Newborn survival is also related to MDG 5 for maternal health as the interventions are closely linked. This article reviews current progress for newborn health globally, with a focus on the countries where most deaths occur. Three major causes of neonatal deaths (infections, complications of preterm birth, intrapartum-related neonatal deaths) account for almost 90% of all neonatal deaths. The highest impact interventions to address these causes of neonatal death are summarised with estimates of potential for lives saved. Two priority opportunities to address newborn deaths through existing maternal health programmes are highlighted. First, antenatal steroids are high impact, feasible and yet under-used in low resource settings. Second, with increasing investment to scale up skilled attendance and emergency obstetric care, it is important to include skills and equipment for simple immediate newborn care and neonatal resuscitation. A major gap is care during the early postnatal period for mothers and babies. There are promising models that have been tested mainly in research studies in Asia that are now being adapted and evaluated at scale including through a network of African implementation research trials.