Twenty years ago, newborn health was barely included in maternal and child health programs. There was a seminal change when researchers found that community health workers implementing home-based newborn care – including preventive care and simple management of common but life-threatening newborn complications (Bang et al. Lancet 1999) – led to a reduction in neonatal deaths.
Those were effervescent years. New thinking was emerging in the field, with many advocating for the inclusion of newborns as a priority in the global agenda. Answering the call for newborn health prioritization and with generous donor support, Save the Children US established a flagship newborn health program of research, program learning, advocacy, and resource mobilization – the Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) initiative.
The innovations developed and tested under the initiative have been widely incorporated into global and country policies and practices. Save the Children’s catalytic approach has enabled partners to come together to adopt and implement life-saving interventions for newborns in many low and mid-income countries, including those with the highest burden of newborn deaths.
Catalytic successes of four successive phases of SNL and other programs helped put newborn health solidly on the global policy agenda and led a concerted movement to identify the burden and causes of newborn deaths, and to greatly expand the evidence base of feasible, affordable interventions to save newborns.
While experts in the field celebrate progress, they are cognizant of an unfinished agenda: improving newborn survival among the world’s most vulnerable newborns and marginalized groups, including small and sick newborns, most of whom are premature, and babies born in humanitarian emergencies and in urban slums. To keep newborns front and center in the global health agenda, health champions around the world are invited to renew the commitment to ensure that every newborn survive and thrive to achieve their full potential.
View the Newborn Health Legacy Timeline here.