“When we know better, we do better” – Maya Angelou
Being able to access and utilize the most recent data for newborn health is critical to reversing trends in newborn morbidity and mortality and raises awareness of where gaps remain. The vast improvements to newborn health data in the past few years must be commended. More newborn health related questions are in national household surveys; estimation methodologies for mortality and disease burden have advanced; and newborn specific indicators have been added to some national data systems (see Malawi example). New low birth weight estimates are expected in May 2019, and there is currently a call for stillbirth data in order to generate new estimates in 2020. Since gaps in national data systems remain a challenge in the highest burden settings, we continue to rely on comparable estimates generated by UN agencies and others to inform our knowledge around newborn health indicators across countries.
Globally, in 2017, more than 2.5 million babies died during their first month of life and another 2.6 million were stillborn. Neonatal deaths now make up 47 percent of all under-five deaths, an increase from 40 percent in 1990. While some indicators have improved in recent years – the global neonatal mortality rate has fallen from 19 in 2015 to 18 in 2017 – others, for example, preterm birth rates, remain unchanged and highlight wide disparities in care across countries and regions. New preterm birth estimates released in November 2018 show that preterm birth rates are increasing globally and that complications of preterm birth are the leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age. This reflects how improvements to measuring and monitoring data could have wide-reaching effects on maternal and newborn health, since once the scope of the issue is understood, interventions can be tailored to address it.
Beyond epidemiology and coverage of interventions, we also need to consider more distal information that still influences newborn health. For example, health expenditure data, as reported in the 2018 global health financing report, shows transformations in global trends for health spending as well as current health expenditure per capita for most countries. This new report provides a breakdown of information by different health sectors, as well enables a more detailed analysis between health programs.
Established in 2014, Healthy Newborn Network’s Newborn Numbers page provides the most recently published data relating to newborn survival and health – including under-5 child, neonatal and maternal mortality, stillbirths, cause of death, preterm birth rates, coverage of interventions, health financing, and contextual data – in one consolidated location. A comprehensive database with an extensive list of indicators for 197 countries can be easily downloaded from the webpage and used to make the case for a wide array of newborn health-related projects. Additionally, an interactive data visualization tool, including heat maps, makes it simple for users to select multiple indicators and countries, demonstrate cross-country comparisons of indicators, and create graphs of the latest global, regional, and national newborn-related data. HNN also provides numbers for key newborn health related indicators for each country on our country pages.
We hope you will use this data and research in your work and quest to know and do better for our next generation.