A new study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that a simple tool could be used to predict when newborn care is needed and could help prioritize limited human resources to target infants most at risk of dying.
Determining where and when newborn care is needed is often difficult in places where births occur in the home, in remote areas, and where there is a shortage of skilled health workers. To explore this issue, researchers analyzed data from over 28,000 births in rural Bangladesh to test whether information collected shortly after birth could predict an infant’s death within the first 30 days of life.
The study, published in BMJ Global Health, was led by Dr. Alain Labrique, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of international health, and Mr. Farhad Khan, a 2019 MSPH graduate of the Bloomberg School. Analyses showed that if mothers reported any one of four danger signs shortly after birth, there was a greater risk of death, especially if the baby was also born underweight or premature. Approximately 98 percent of infants who did not fall into this category survived the first 30 days of life. The combination of risk factors predicted about 65 percent of the infant deaths within the first month.
With ubiquitous cell phone coverage in many low-resource settings, information about these danger signs could be collected over the phone from new mothers. As Bangladesh and neighboring countries struggle to deal with health care worker shortages, a predictive tool such as this one could help prioritize and target care to those at greatest risk and help accelerate reductions in neonatal mortality, at least until excellent neonatal care is available to all.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on March 13