Let Them Thrive: Quality Care for the Smallest

Every Preemie–SCALE is proud to partner with the global community and country partners to strengthen efforts to improve preterm birth outcomes, particularly in low-resource settings. World Prematurity Day 2017 highlights the importance of quality care for the smallest, recognizing that preterm babies are particularly vulnerable to death and disability.

In fact, complications related to preterm birth are the number-one cause of mortality among children under 5 globally. If the global community and national governments are serious in their quest to meet Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, heightened attention must be given to the safe and effective care of preterm newborns (those born before 37 weeks gestation) to ensure that they survive and thrive.

While the majority of early babies can survive with essential newborn care, including warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties, others will need more advanced inpatient care and supportive care over time. Every Preemie–SCALE is working with partners to ensure that inpatient care for small and sick newborns is safe and effective.

Working with global experts, the project recently released Do No Harm Technical Briefs on oxygen use, thermal management, infection prevention, and human milk feeding. These briefs can be used by policymakers, healthcare managers, and healthcare providers to strengthen the quality of inpatient care for the smallest.

Wrapping our early or small newborns in a safe and supportive care environment is essential if we are to realize further gains in newborn and child health. The care environment needs to promote the mother-baby pair and actively seek out ways to ensure mothers and other caretakers have access to their newborn throughout their inpatient stay. Parents need to be consulted regarding the care their baby is receiving and any treatment options. And providers need to be diligent in their efforts to create an environment that minimizes disruption and potential harm to the newborn.

Actively engaging parents in the care of their newborn during the inpatient stay will empower them to care for the baby once home and will influence their willingness to return for critical follow-up care. Moreover, parents of preterm babies who survive can become our best community advocates sharing messages that early and small babies are as valuable as other babies and that with the proper care, these babies can survive and thrive.

About the Author

Judith Robb-McCord is senior director of Every Preemie—SCALE, a USAID-funded project implemented by Project Concern International, the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth and the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The project is designed to catalyze commitment and action for the management of preterm birth and low birthweight in USAID’s 24 priority maternal and child health countries, predominantly in Africa and SE Asia.

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