Newborn Numbers: easy access to newborn health related data for accountability

By Mary Kinney and Erica Corbett

Current trends predict that 26 million newborns will die this decade, and most of these deaths can be prevented by reaching high coverage of quality antenatal care, skilled care at birth, postnatal care for mother and baby, and care of small and sick newborns (UNIGME Child Mortality Report 2019). A key factor in changing the trajectory for newborn survival is accessing and utilizing the most recent numbers – mortality, coverage of care, funding, human resources.

In this age of information overload, it has become vital to be able to access reliable data, packaged in a format that allows users to quickly discern what is most pertinent to their needs. With only 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Healthy Newborn Network remains committed to support data use to improve monitoring and accountability for newborn health. Since 2014, HNN has ensured that users have access to the most up-to-date data in order to raise awareness about the burden and remaining gaps, as well as to link data on newborn health to other factors.

The Newborn Numbers page on HNN includes a comprehensive database of the most recently published data relating to newborn survival and health – including under-5, neonatal and maternal mortality, stillbirths, causes of death, preterm birth rates, coverage of interventions, health financing and contextual data. The database with an extensive list of indicators for 197 countries can be downloaded for offline use. It also includes an interactive data visualization tool allowing users to easily and quickly generate graphs for over 50 newborn related indicators. All this data are already in the public domain but available in multiple locations (websites and peer-review journals);  Newborn Numbers consolidates this information in order to support those interested in newborn health for easy data access and use for advocacy and decision making.

The latest version of the Newborn Numbers is now available on HNN, long with updates to relevant numbers in the Issue and Country pages.

The new numbers show that:

  • 5.4 million deaths occur during pregnancy, at birth and in the first month each year, including 2.5 million newborn deaths, 2.6 million stillbirths, and 295,000 maternal deaths.
  • Progress for newborn mortality and stillbirth are slower than for post-neonatal under-5 child mortality and maternal mortality, respectfully. Between 2000-2018, average annual rate of reduction for the global neonatal mortality rate was 2.9% per year; the average annual rate of reduction for the global post-neonatal under-5 mortality rate was 4.4% per year. The average annual rate of reduction for stillbirths (2.0%) is slower than the reduction of maternal mortality (2.9%).
  • Top ten countries with highest number of newborn deaths include India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and United Republic of Tanzania.
  • 81% of births are attended by a skilled attendant; 21% of deliveries are by C-section
  • 10.4 births per 100 livebirths are preterm (before 37 weeks gestation)
  • 15% of infants are low birthweight
  • 29% of infants are unweighed at birth (this is a new indicator that UNICEF tracks)
  • 44% of infants are put to the breast within one hour of birth
  • 45% of infants receive postnatal care within 2 days; 61% of women receive postnatal care within 2 days – signifying a gap in care for newborns during postnatal visits
  • 73% of births are registered
  • The adolescent birth rate is 44 births per 1,000 adolescent girls (aged 15–19)
  • 33 of 41 countries with data report having a National RMNCH strategy/plan costed; 10 of 14 countries with data report a national strategy/plan costed for newborn health
  • 83 of 125 countries with data saying “No” to providing maternity protection (Convention 183)
  • 7 midwifery competencies are tracked by Countdown to 2030 including “Midwives allowed to independently perform newborn resuscitation”

A number of critical estimates were published last year, notably the new maternal mortality and low birthweight estimates. The Countdown to 2030 country profiles were updated and released in November 2019, and included mortality, coverage, equity and drivers indicators identified as the Tier 1 set of indicators. UN agencies released the annually updated child mortality estimates (including newborn data), and published the latest coverage of care indicators in the World Health Statistics report and UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children’s report.

Other database platforms for maternal, newborn and child health also emerged in the past year including the WHO Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Data Portal and the Countdown to 2030 Dashboards. Both platforms compile data on maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health with visualization features. After reviewing the new data platforms, it became clear that it is necessary to continue to provide the newborn community with an easy-once off downloadable excel of relevant indicators to use on a daily basis, and the option for building simple charts to use in decision-making, research and advocacy.

Check out the updated Newborn Numbers page here.

About the Author

Mary Kinney is an Advisor for Newborn Health Evidence and Advocacy with Save the Children US’s Saving Newborn Lives programme.

Erica Corbett is a midwife, reproductive health educator, and international consultant in maternal, neonatal and child health research.

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