Reduce Neonatal Deaths
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released three new publications that will help strengthen knowledge on how to prevent stillbirth and neonatal deaths. These publications are aimed to assist countries as they develop their classification, analysis and investigation processes on unreported deaths.

Over 2.7 million babies die within the first month of life, according to the U.N. health agency. Another 2.6 million are stillborn, and over 300,000 women die during childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable if paired with the appropriate health care. “By reviewing the causes of maternal and infant deaths, countries can improve quality of health care, take corrective actions and prevent millions of families from enduring the pain of losing their infants or mothers,” stated the Director of Health and Research at WHO, Ian Askew.

When a baby is stillborn, they are not recorded in either a death or birth certificate. Therefore, many of the above numbers are an underestimate of the true amount of stillborn and newborn deaths. Countries are unable to truly investigate these deaths and find out appropriate prevention methods for future cases. This is why WHO decided to improve education efforts for countries by releasing these three new publications:

  1.  “WHO Application of the International Classification of Disease-10 to deaths during the perinatal period.” This publication aims to help countries link certain stillbirths to relevant causes. Such causes could be conditions like diabetes or hypertension in the mother. Before this recent publication, there was no classification system that would help countries record this information.
  2. “Making Every Baby Count: Audit and Review of Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths.” This will be a guide to assist countries’ investigation of deaths, allowing them to develop solutions for future cases. It will incorporate the above classification system to publish a basic review of every stillbirth death. According to Anthony Costello — WHO’s director of maternal, children’s and adolescent’s health — every death review gives valuable information about what can be done in the future to prevent a child’s life from being lost.
  3. “Time to Respond: A Report on the Global Implementation of Maternal Death Surveillance and Response.” This will help strengthen countries’ review process of deaths in hospitals and clinics. It also details guidelines for hospitals to better improve their quality of care. WHO recommends hospital committees to meet at least twice a year. They also suggest conducting mortality audits and reviews of their past patients.

To strengthen other countries’ health information systems, WHO is partnering with more than 30 other global health organizations in hope of developing a more easily understood package of guidance and tools for countries to prevent neonatal deaths.

Katie Grovatt

Photo: Flickr