Research Round-Up: January 2011

This month, HNN is featuring the current issue of Seminars in Perinatology, 1 December 2010, Volume 34 issue 6. Abstracts of the papers are below.

3.6 Million Neonatal Deaths—What Is Progressing and What Is Not? JE Lawn, K Kerber, C Enweronu-Laryea, S Cousens. 

Each year 3.6 million infants are estimated to die in the first 4 weeks of life (neonatal period)—but the majority continue to die at home, uncounted. This article reviews progress for newborn health globally, with a focus on the countries in which most deaths occur—what data do we have to guide accelerated efforts? All regions are advancing, but the level of decrease in neonatal mortality differs by region, country, and within countries. Progress also differs by the main causes of neonatal death. Three major causes of neonatal deaths (infections, complications of preterm birth, and intrapartum-related neonatal deaths or “birth asphyxia”) account for more than 80% of all neonatal deaths globally. The most rapid reductions have been made in reducing neonatal tetanus, and there has been apparent progress towards reducing neonatal infections. Limited, if any, reduction has been made in reducing global deaths from preterm birth and for intrapartum-related neonatal deaths. High-impact, feasible interventions to address these 3 causes are summarized in this article, along with estimates of potential for lives saved. A major gap is reaching mothers and babies at birth and in the early postnatal period. There are promising community-based service delivery models that have been tested mainly in research studies in Asia that are now being adapted and evaluated at scale and also being tested through a network of African implementation research trials. To meet Millennium Development Goal 4, more can and must be done to address neonatal deaths. A critical step is improving the quantity, quality and use of data to select and implement the most effective interventions and strengthen existing programs, especially at district level.

Behavior Change for Newborn Survival in Resource-Poor Community Settings: Bridging the Gap Between Evidence and Impact.* V Kumar, A Kumar, GL Darmstadt.

Despite an established evidence base of simple, affordable, and low-cost interventions to avert neonatal deaths, global progress in reducing neonatal mortality has stagnated in recent years. Under-recognition of the critical role played by behavior change in ensuring adoption and dissemination of innovations is a major reason for this gap between evidence and impact. A general lack of understanding of the mechanisms underlying behavior change at a population level coupled with an under-appreciation of the sociocultural context of newborn care behaviors has underscored ill-informed approaches towards behavior change that have met with limited success. This article draws upon available evidence from prevention-oriented, community-based newborn survival trials to derive insights into the role of behavior change in neonatal mortality reduction. We propose a simple model, the intervention-causation pathway, to explain the pathway through which behavior change interventions may lead to reductions in mortality. Further, we explore the unique nature of newborn care behaviors and their underlying sociocultural context, along with state-of-the-art advances in social, behavioral, and management sciences. These principles form the basis of the behavior change management framework that has successfully guided intervention design and implementation, leading to high impact on neonatal mortality reduction, in Uttar Pradesh, India. We describe how the behavior change management framework can be applied to inform the design of theoretically and empirically sound behavior change interventions with greater precision, predictability and pace towards reduction in neonatal mortality. We finally touch upon key overarching principles that should guide intervention execution for maximal impact.

Community-Based Intervention Packages for Improving Perinatal Health in Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence.* J Schiffman, GL Darmstadt, S Agarwal, AH Baqui. 

The Lancet Neonatal Survival Series categorized neonatal health interventions into 3 service delivery modes: “Outreach,” “Family-Community Care,” and “Facility-based Clinical Care.” Family-Community Care services generally have a greater potential impact on neonatal health than Outreach services, with similar costs. Combining interventions from all 3 service delivery modes is ideal for achievement of high impact. However, access to clinical care is limited in resource-poor settings with weak health systems. The current trend for those settings is to combine neonatal interventions into community-based intervention packages (CBIPs), which can be integrated into the local health care system. In this article, we searched several large databases to identify all published, large-scale, controlled studies that were implemented in a rural setting, included a control group, and reported neonatal and/or perinatal mortality as outcomes. We identified only 9 large-scale studies that fit these criteria. Several conclusions can be reached. (1) Family-Community Care interventions can have a substantial effect on neonatal and perinatal mortality. (2) Several important common strategies were used across the studies, including community mobilization, health education, behavior change communication sessions, care seeking modalities, and home visits during pregnancy and after birth. However, implementation of these interventions varied widely across the studies. (3) There is a need for additional, large-scale studies to test evidence-based CBIPs in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where no large-scale studies were identified. (4) We need to establish consistent, clearly defined terminology and protocols for designing trials and reporting outcomes so that we are able to compare results across different settings. (5) There is an urgent need to invest in research and program development focusing on neonatal health in urban areas. (6) It is crucial to integrate CBIPs in rural and urban settings into the already existing health care system to facilitate sustainability of the program and for scaling up. It is also important to evaluate the packages and to demonstrate the health impact of large-scale implementation. (7) Finally, there is a need for improving the continuum of care between home and facility-based care.

Global Perinatal Health: Accelerating Progress Through Innovations, Interactions, and Interconnections. GL Darmstadt.

Linkages Among Reproductive Health, Maternal Health, and Perinatal Outcomes. ZA Bhutta, ZS Lassi, A Blanc, F Donnay. 

Some interventions in women before and during pregnancy may reduce perinatal and neonatal deaths, and recent research has established linkages of reproductive health with maternal, perinatal, and early neonatal health outcomes. In this review, we attempted to analyze the impact of biological, clinical, and epidemiologic aspects of reproductive and maternal health interventions on perinatal and neonatal outcomes through an elucidation of a biological framework for linking reproductive, maternal and newborn health (RHMNH); care strategies and interventions for improved perinatal and neonatal health outcomes; public health implications of these linkages and implementation strategies; and evidence gaps for scaling up such strategies. Approximately 1000 studies (up to June 15, 2010) were reviewed that have addressed an impact of reproductive and maternal health interventions on perinatal and neonatal outcomes. These include systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and stand-alone experimental and observational studies. Evidences were also drawn from recent work undertaken by the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG), the interconnections between maternal and newborn health reviews identified by the Global Alliance for Prevention of Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), as well as relevant work by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Our review amply demonstrates that opportunities for assessing outcomes for both mothers and newborns have been poorly realized and documented. Most of the interventions reviewed will require more greater-quality evidence before solid programmatic recommendations can be made. However, on the basis of our review, birth spacing, prevention of indoor air pollution, prevention of intimate partner violence before and during pregnancy, antenatal care during pregnancy, Doppler ultrasound monitoring during pregnancy, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, birth and newborn care preparedness via community-based intervention packages, emergency obstetrical care, elective induction for postterm delivery, Cesarean delivery for breech presentation, and prophylactic corticosteroids in preterm labor reduce perinatal mortality; and early initiation of breastfeeding and birth and newborn care preparedness through community-based intervention packages reduce neonatal mortality. This review demonstrates that RHMNH are inextricably linked, and that, therefore, health policies and programs should link them together. Such potential integration of strategies would not only help improve outcomes for millions of mothers and newborns but would also save scant resources. This would also allow for greater efficiency in training, monitoring, and supervision of health care workers and would also help families and communities to access and use services easily.

Neonatal Hypothermia in Low-Resource Settings.* LC Mullany. 

Hypothermia among newborns is considered an important contributor to neonatal morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings. However, in these settings only limited progress has been made towards understanding the risk of mortality after hypothermia, describing how this relationship is dependent on both the degree or severity of exposure and the gestational age and weight status of the baby, and implementing interventions to mitigate both exposure and the associated risk of poor outcomes. Given the centrality of averting neonatal mortality to achieving global milestones towards reductions in child mortality by 2015, recent years have seen substantial resources and efforts implemented to improve understanding of global epidemiology of neonatal health. In this article, a summary of the burden, consequences, and risk factors of neonatal hypothermia in low-resources settings is presented, with a particular focus on community-based data. Context-appropriate interventions for reducing hypothermia exposure and the role of these interventions in reducing global neonatal mortality burden are explored.

Neonatal Infections in the Developing World.* HA Ganatra, AKM Zaidi. 

An estimated one million newborns die from infections in developing countries. Despite the huge burden, high-quality data from community-based epidemiologic studies on etiology, risk factors, and appropriate management are lacking from areas in which newborns experience the greatest mortality. Several planned and ongoing studies in South Asia and Africa promise to address the knowledge gaps. However, simple and low-cost interventions, such as community-based neonatal care packages supporting clean birth practices, early detection of illness through use of clinical algorithms, and home-based antibiotic therapy in areas in which hospitalization is not feasible are already available and have the potential to bring about a drastic reduction in global neonatal mortality due to infections if they are scaled up to national level. Concerted collaborative action by national governments, health professionals, civil society organizations, and international health agencies is required to reduce neonatal mortality due to infections.

Preventing Preterm Birth and Neonatal Mortality: Exploring the Epidemiology, Causes, and Interventions. LE Simmons, CE Rubens, GL Darmstadt, MG Gravett.

Globally, each year, an estimated 13 million infants are born before 37 completed weeks of gestation. Complications from these preterm births are the leading cause of neonatal mortality. Preterm birth is directly responsible for an estimated one million neonatal deaths annually and is also an important contributor to child and adult morbidities. Low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by preterm birth and carry a greater burden of disease attributed to preterm birth. Causes of preterm birth are multifactorial, vary by gestational age, and likely vary by geographic and ethnic contexts. Although many interventions have been evaluated, few have moderate-to high-quality evidence for decreasing preterm birth: smoking cessation and progesterone treatment in women with a high risk of preterm birth in low- and middle-income countries and cervical cerclage for those in high-income countries. Antepartum and postnatal interventions (eg, antepartum maternal steroid administration, or kangaroo mother care) to improve preterm neonatal survival after birth have been demonstrated to be effective but have not been widely implemented. Further research efforts are urgently needed to better understand context-specific pathways leading to preterm birth; to develop appropriate, efficacious prevention strategies and interventions to improve survival of neonates born prematurely; and to scale-up known efficacious interventions to improve the health of the preterm neonate.

Reducing Intrapartum-Related Neonatal Deaths in Low- and Middle-Income Countries—What Works?* SN Wall, ACC Lee, W Carlo, R Goldenberg, S Niermeyer, GL Darmstadt, W Keenan, ZA Bhutta, J Perlman, JE Lawn

Each year, 814,000 neonatal deaths and 1.02 million stillbirths result from intrapartum-related causes, such as intrauterine hypoxia. Almost all of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, where women frequently lack access to quality perinatal care and may delay care-seeking. Approximately 60 million annual births occur outside of health facilities, and most of these childbirths are without a skilled birth attendant. Conditions that increase the risk of intrauterine hypoxia—such as pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, obstructed labor, and low birth weight—are often more prevalent in low resource settings. Intrapartum-related neonatal deaths can be averted by a range of interventions that prevent intrapartum complications (eg, prevention and management of pre-eclampsia), detect and manage intrapartum problems (eg, monitoring progress of labor with access to emergency obstetrical care), and identify and assist the nonbreathing newborn (eg, stimulation and bag-mask ventilation). Simple, affordable, and effective approaches are available for low-resource settings, including community-based strategies to increase skilled birth attendance, partograph use by frontline health workers linked to emergency obstetrical care services, task shifting to increase access to Cesarean delivery, and simplified neonatal resuscitation training (Helping Babies BreatheSM). Coverage of effective interventions is low, however, and many opportunities are missed to provide quality care within existing health systems. In sub-Saharan Africa, recent health services assessments found only 15% of hospitals equipped to provide basic neonatal resuscitation. In the short term, intrapartum-related neonatal deaths can be substantially reduced by improving the quality of services for all childbirths that occur in health facilities, identifying and addressing the missed opportunities to provide effective interventions to those who seek facility-based care. For example, providing neonatal resuscitation for 90% of deliveries currently taking place in health facilities would save more than 93,000 newborn lives each year. Longer-term strategies must address the gaps in coverage of institutional delivery, skilled birth attendance, and quality by strengthening health systems, increasing demand for care, and improving community-based services. Both short- and long-term strategies to reduce intrapartum-related mortality should focus on reducing inequities in coverage and quality of obstetrical and perinatal care.

Stillbirths: Epidemiology, Evidence, and Priorities for Action.* MY Yakoob, JE Lawn, GL Darmstadt, ZA Bhutta. 

The annual global burden of stillbirths amounts to an estimated 3.2 million%, 98% of which occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Of these, 1.02 million (32%) are intrapartum, ie, taking place during labor. The most important causes of stillbirths in LMICs include obstructed or prolonged labor, hypertensive diseases of pregnancy, syphilis and gram-negative infections, malaria in endemic areas, and undernutrition. Interventions that target these causes can play an important role in reducing stillbirths. There is a clear benefit of emergency obstetrical care, particularly Cesarean delivery, on intrapartum rates in LMICs when Cesarean rates are less than 8% to 10%. Provision of a skilled birth attendant is another important intervention whereby labor complications can be prevented, identified, managed, and/or referred. Among interventions for infections, syphilis screening and treatment can prevent as many as 50% of all stillbirths in areas with high syphilis prevalence, reducing the risk of stillbirths among treated women to that of untreated women. Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria and insecticide-treated mosquito nets are also interventions with strong recommendation, especially in the first 2 pregnancies. Balanced energy protein supplementation is an important nutritional intervention to prevent stillbirths in undernourished women, especially in LMICs. Creation of increased demand for health services within communities and increasing their uptake also can play a role in averting stillbirths. Other potential social and behavioral interventions include birth spacing, smoking cessation and indoor air pollution control, although the evidence for these is weak.

Why Is Continuum of Care from Home to Health Facilities Essential to Improve Perinatal Survival?* R Bahl, S Qazi, GL Darmstadt, J Martines. 

The period around the time of delivery is extremely hazardous for infants in developing countries. After the first week the risk drops sharply, and survival improves markedly. To reduce perinatal mortality, a continuum of care between the home and the various facilities is essential during pregnancy, childbirth and the newborn period. This paper reviews strategies to promote the establishment of this continuum: providing health care within or close to home by frontline workers and increasing the use of services in health facilities through community mobilization and financing strategies. As perinatal care and care for seriously sick children face common challenges and lessons could be learned from successful strategies for management of other illnesses, this paper also reviews intervention models involving community health workers (CHWs) to improve case management of sick children at the household and community levels. Available evidence suggests that the community strategy with the greatest impact on neonatal mortality is home visits by CHWs combined with community mobilization. The same strategy appears to be effective in increasing health facility utilization. An equally effective strategy for increasing health facility utilization seems to be financing health care to remove financial access barriers, particularly using conditional cash transfers or vouchers. Although the availability of information on the effect of community interventions to improve newborn health has increased in the recent past, significant gaps remain. Information on the effectiveness of strategies in different settings, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, cost-effectiveness and sustainability are particularly needed and should be gathered in future studies.

Research Round-Up: January 2011

A Large Cross-Sectional Community-Based Study of Newborn Care Practices in Southern Tanzania. S Penfold, Z Hill, M Mrisho, F Manzi, M Tanner, H Mshinda, D Schellenberg, JRM Schellenberg.  PLoS ONE, December 2010. 

Despite recent improvements in child survival in sub-Saharan Africa, neonatal mortality rates remain largely unchanged. This study aimed to determine the frequency of delivery and newborn-care practices in southern Tanzania, where neonatal mortality is higher than the national average. All households in five districts of Southern Tanzania were approached to participate. Of 213,220 female residents aged 13–49 years, 92% participated. Cross-sectional, retrospective data on childbirth and newborn care practices were collected from 22,243 female respondents who had delivered a live baby in the preceding year. Health facility deliveries accounted for 41% of births, with nearly all non-facility deliveries occurring at home (57% of deliveries). Skilled attendants assisted 40% of births. Over half of women reported drying the baby and over a third reported wrapping the baby within 5 minutes of delivery. The majority of mothers delivering at home reported that they had made preparations for delivery, including buying soap (84%) and preparing a cloth for drying the child (85%). Although 95% of these women reported that the cord was cut with a clean razor blade, only half reported that it was tied with a clean thread. Furthermore, out of all respondents 10% reported that their baby was dipped in cold water immediately after delivery, around two-thirds reported bathing their babies within 6 hours of delivery, and 28% reported putting something on the cord to help it dry. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after delivery was rarely practiced. Although 83% of women breastfed within 24 hours of delivery, only 18% did so within an hour. Fewer than half of women exclusively breastfed in the three days after delivery. The findings suggest a need to promote and facilitate health facility deliveries, hygienic delivery practices for home births, delayed bathing and immediate and exclusive breastfeeding in Southern Tanzania to improve newborn health.

Alternative versus standard packages of antenatal care for low-risk pregnancy.* T Dowswell, G Carroli, L Duley, S Gates, AM Gülmezoglu, D Khan-Neelofur, GPP Piaggio. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 

Background: The number of visits for antenatal (prenatal) care developed without evidence of how many visits are necessary. The content of each visit also needs evaluation. Objectives: To compare the effects of antenatal care programmes with reduced visits for low-risk women with standard care. Search Strategy: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (April 2010), reference lists of articles and contacted researchers in the field. Selection Criteria: Randomised trials comparing a reduced number of antenatal visits, with or without goal-oriented care, with standard care. Data collection and analysis: Two authors assessed trial quality and extracted data independently. Main results: We included seven trials (more than 60,000 women): four in high-income countries with individual randomisation; three in low- and middle-income countries with cluster randomisation (clinics as the unit of randomisation). The number of visits for standard care varied, with fewer visits in low- and middle- income country trials. In studies in high-income countries, women in the reduced visits groups, on average, attended between 8.2 and 12 times. In low- and middle- income country trials, many women in the reduced visits group attended on fewer than five occasions, although in these trials the content as well as the number of visits was changed, so as to be more ‘goal oriented’. Perinatal mortality was increased for those randomised to reduced visits rather than standard care, and this difference was borderline for statistical significance (five trials; risk ratio (RR) 1.14; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00 to 1.31). In the subgroup analysis, for high-income countries the number of deaths was small (32/5108), and there was no clear difference between the groups (2 trials; RR 0.90; 95% CI 0.45 to 1.80); for low- and middle-income countries perinatal mortality was significantly higher in the reduced visits group (3 trials RR 1.15; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.32). Reduced visits were associated with a reduction in admission to neonatal intensive care that was borderline for significance (RR 0.89; 95% CI 0.79 to 1.02). There were no clear differences between the groups for the other reported clinical outcomes. Women in all settings were less satisfied with the reduced visits schedule and perceived the gap between visits as too long. Reduced visits may be associated with lower costs. Authors’ Conclusions: In settings with limited resources where the number of visits is already low, reduced visits programmes of antenatal care are associated with an increase in perinatal mortality compared to standard care, although admission to neonatal intensive care may be reduced. Women prefer the standard visits schedule. Where the standard number of visits is low, visits should not be reduced without close monitoring of fetal and neonatal outcome.

Barriers to increasing hospital birth rates in rural Shanxi Province, China.* Y Gao, L Barclay, S Kildea, M Hao, S Belton. Reproductive Health Matters, November 2010.

This study investigated the reasons for continued high rates of home births in rural Shanxi Province, northern China, despite a national programme designed to encourage hospital deliveries. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 home-birthing women in five rural counties and drew on hospital audit data, observations and interviews with local health workers from a larger study. Multiple barriers were identified, including economic and geographic factors and poor quality of maternity care. Women’s main reasons for not having institutional births were financial difficulties (n=26); poor quality of antenatal care (n=13); transport problems (n=11); dissatisfaction with hospital care expressed as fear of being in hospital (n=10); convenience of being at home and continuity of care provided by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) (n=10); and belief that the birth would be normal (n=6). These barriers must all be overcome to improve access to and acceptability of hospital birth. To ensure that the national policy of improving the hospital birth rate is implemented effectively, the government needs to improve the quality of antenatal and delivery care, increase financial subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket payments, remove transport barriers, and where hospital birth is not available in remote areas, consider allowing skilled attendance at home on an outreach basis and integrate TBAs into the health system.

Breast-feeding initiation time and neonatal mortality risk among newborns in South India.* CR Garcia, LC Mullany, L Rahmathullah, J Katz, R D Thulasiraj, S Sheeladevi, C Coles, J M Tielsch. Journal of Perinatology, December 2010.

Objective: To examine the association between breast-feeding initiation time and neonatal mortality in India, where breast-feeding initiation varies widely from region to region. Study Design: Data were collected as part of a community-based, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the impact of vitamin A supplementation in rural villages of Tamil Nadu, India. Multivariate binomial regression analysis was used to estimate the association between neonatal mortality and breast-feeding initiation time (<12 h, 12 to 24 h, >24 h) among infants surviving a minimum of 48 h. Result: Among 10,464 newborns, 82.1% were first breast-fed before 12 h, 13.8% were breast-fed between 12 and 24 h, and 4.1% were breast-fed after 24 h. After adjusting for birth weight, gestational age and other covariates, late initiators (>24 h) were at 78% higher risk of death (relative risk=1.78 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.03 to 3.10)). There was no difference in mortality risk when comparing babies fed in the first 12 h compared with the second 12 h after birth. Conclusion: Late (>24 h) initiation of breast-feeding is associated with a higher risk of neonatal mortality in Tamil Nadu. Emphasis on breast-feeding promotion programs in low-resource settings of India where early initiation is low could significantly reduce neonatal mortality.

Countdown to 2015: assessment of official development assistance to maternal, newborn, and child health, 2003-08.* C Pitt, G Greco, T Powell-Jackson, A Mills. The Lancet, November 2010.

Background: Achievement of high coverage of effective interventions and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5A requires adequate financing. Many of the 68 priority countries in the Countdown to 2015 Initiative are dependent on official development assistance (ODA). We analysed aid flows for maternal, newborn, and child health for 2007 and 2008 and updated previous estimates for 2003-06.Methods: We manually coded and analysed the complete aid activities database of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for 2007 and 2008 with methods that we previously developed to track ODA. By use of newly available data for donor disbursement and population estimates, we revised data for 2003-06. We analysed the degree to which donors target their ODA to recipients with the greatest maternal and child health needs and examined trends over the 6 years. Findings: In 2007 and 2008, US$4•7 billion and $5•4 billion (constant 2008 US$), respectively, were disbursed in support of maternal, newborn, and child health activities in all developing countries. These amounts reflect a 105% increase between 2003 and 2008, but no change relative to overall ODA for health, which also increased by 105%. Countdown priority countries received $3•4 billion in 2007 and $4•1 billion in 2008, representing 71•6% and 75•6% of all maternal, newborn, and child health disbursements, respectively. Targeting of ODA to countries with high rates of maternal and child mortality improved over the 6-year period, although some of these countries persistently received far less ODA per head than did countries with much lower mortality rates and higher income levels. Funding from the GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria exceeded core funding from multilateral institutions, and bilateral funding also increased substantially between 2003 and 2008, especially from the USA and the UK. Interpretation: The increases in ODA to maternal, newborn, and child health during 2003-08 are to be welcomed, as is the somewhat improved targeting of ODA to countries with greater needs. Nonetheless, these increases do not reflect increased prioritisation relative to other health areas.

Impact of community-based interventions on maternal and neonatal health indicators: Results from a community randomized trial in rural Balochistan, Pakistan. F Midhet and S Becker. Reproductive Health, November 2010.

Background: Pakistan has high maternal mortality, particularly in the rural areas. The delay in decision making to seek medical care during obstetric emergencies remains a significant factor in maternal mortality. Methods: We present results from an experimental study in rural Pakistan. Village clusters were randomly assigned to intervention and control arms (16 clusters each). In the intervention clusters, women were provided information on safe motherhood through pictorial booklets and audiocassettes; traditional birth attendants were trained in clean delivery and recognition of obstetric and newborn complications; and emergency transportation systems were set up. In eight of the 16 intervention clusters, husbands also received specially designed education materials on safe motherhood and family planning. Pre- and post-intervention surveys on selected maternal and neonatal health indicators were conducted in all 32 clusters. A district-wide survey was conducted two years after project completion to measure any residual impact of the interventions. Results: Pregnant women in intervention clusters received prenatal care and prophylactic iron therapy more frequently than pregnant women in control clusters. Providing safe motherhood education to husbands resulted in further improvement of some indicators. There was a small but significant increase in percent of hospital deliveries but no impact on the use of skilled birth attendants. Perinatal mortality reduced significantly in clusters where only wives received information and education in safe motherhood. The survey to assess residual impact showed similar results. Conclusions: We conclude that providing safe motherhood education increased the probability of pregnant women having prenatal care and utilization of health services for obstetric complications.

Implications of the new WHO guidelines on HIV and infant feeding for child survival in South Africa. T Doherty, D Sanders, A Goga, D Jackson. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, November 2010. 

This paper presents the latest evidence regarding mortality and morbidity associated with feeding practices in the context of HIV infection and highlights the lack of a clear infant feeding policy for South Africa in the context of changing evidence. It questions the ongoing provision of free formula milk through the public health system and recommends a change in policy that prioritizes child survival for all South African children.

Lessons regarding the use of birth kits in low resource countries.* VA Hundley, BI Avan, D Braunholtz, AE Fitzmaurice, WJ Graham. Midwifery. E-Pub ahead of print.

Objective: to synthesise implementation lessons regarding birth kits in terms of the context, the user, requirements for use and the logistics of supplying kits. Design: the scoping review was informed through a systematic literature review; a call for information distributed to experts in maternal and child health, relevant research centres and specialist libraries; a search of the web sites of groups working in the area of maternal and child health; and data extraction from DHS surveys. Data synthesis involved the production of a simple descriptive summary of the state of knowledge regarding birth kits. Participants: the 28 articles included in the review described a total of 21 birth kits used in 40 different countries and in many cases the kits were part of a package of interventions. Findings: although birth kits are available in more than 50 low resource countries, evidence regarding implementation is limited. Levels of birth kit use vary considerably (8-99%); with higher levels being reported where birth kits are distributed free as part of a research programme. Identifying the user of the birth kit was difficult in most reports and the evidence regarding training requirements for birth kit use was conflicting. Limited information exists regarding facilitators and barriers to birth kit use, and how birth kits fit within the wider service delivery of maternal and child health. Conclusion: despite widespread use of birth kits, implementation lessons are hard to identify. The fact that birth kits are predominantly used in non-facility settings, and probably by non-skilled attendants, poses further challenges in synthesising the evidence. It would seem logical that government run programmes would increase utlisation rates; however in these countries national level data are not yet available. Such data are crucial to identifying how women obtain and use birth kits. The importance of context cannot be over emphasised, and better descriptive methods are needed to capture contextual factors that may impact on the implementation process. Implications for practice: birth kits are a promising technology to achieve MDG 5, however further research is needed before making recommendations to scale up mother held birth kits or to expand kit contents.

Newborn Care Training of Midwives and Neonatal and Perinatal Mortality Rates in a Developing Country. WA Carlo, EM McClure, E Chomba, H Chakraborty, T Hartwell, H Harris, O Lincetto, L Wright. Pediatrics, November 2010.

Objective: This study was designed to test the hypothesis that 2 training programs would reduce incrementally 7-day neonatal mortality rates for low-risk institutional deliveries. Methods: Using a train-the-trainer model, certified research midwives sequentially trained the midwives who performed deliveries in low-risk, first-level, urban, community health clinics in 2 cities in Zambia in the protocol and data collection, in the World Health Organization Essential Newborn Care (ENC) course (universal precautions and cleanliness, routine neonatal care, resuscitation, thermoregulation, breastfeeding, kangaroo care, care of small infants, and common illnesses), and in the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (in-depth basic resuscitation). Data were collected during 3 periods, after implementation of each training course. RESULTSA total of 71 689 neonates were enrolled in the 3 study periods. All-cause, 7-day neonatal mortality rates decreased from 11.5 deaths per 1000 live births to 6.8 deaths per 1000 live births after ENC training (relative risk: 0.59 [95% confidence interval: 0.48-0.77]; P < .001), because of decreases in rates of deaths attributable to birth asphyxia and infection. Perinatal mortality rates but not stillbirth rates decreased. The 7-day neonatal mortality rate was decreased further after Neonatal Resuscitation Program training, after correction for loss to follow-up monitoring. Conclusions: ENC training for midwives reduced 7-day neonatal mortality rates in low-risk clinics. Additional in-depth basic training in neonatal resuscitation may reduce mortality rates further.

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