At the recent Annual Conference of the Neonatology Forum (NNF) on 17th and 18th November 2007 in Bangalore, leading members of the 300 participants decided to take on a mission to save newborns in the state of Karnataka.
In India, more than one million newborns die annually. This is 25% of the global neonatal death load. If a satellite picture of earth were to be taken to show mortality burden, the high infant mortality in north Indian states all along the plains of River Ganges would be conspicuous.
Karnataka would come next with a neonatal mortality of above 40 per thousand live births.
The Neonatology Forum recognised that while it’s learned professors were the best custodians of ‘high-tech’ knowledge, they could not reach the vast number of dying newborns on the periphery of medical services in Karnataka.
To extend knowledge and services to those areas, the NNF members decided to provide special training to doctors and nurses in the science of saving newborns. The latter would in turn, train village service providers like the Auxiliary Nurse, Midwife or the staff nurse in the “open- round-the-clock” labour room of Primary Health Centres or hospitals in the 13 high risk districts of Karnataka..
The Training Programme, an intervention of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), was supported by UNICEF. 80 doctors and 160 nurses benefited from the project which included input sessions on Low Birth weight, Hypothermia, Sepsis, Neonatal Transport, Kangaroo Mother Care, Feeding the Newborn and Neonatal Jaundice Phototherapy. It provided “skill up-gradation stations” with hands on training on Neonatal Resuscitation.
High priority districts have already received equipment supplied from NRHM funds for Neonatal care in all its Primary Health Centers. Dr. Antony K. R., Project Officer, UNICEF (Hyderabad) has urged recipients to use the equipment and to freely interact with other pediatricians on the phone for efficient problem solving.
The Neonatology Forum will continue to provide technical inputs for planning and appropriate budget allocations under National Rural Health Mission to improve newborn care in the district and sub-district hospitals. Training Staff nurses/ANM and doctors, both in government hospitals and small nursing homes is a priority. The NNF will mobilize resources and staff to improve labour rooms, maternity wards and sick newborn nurseries in district head quarters and smaller towns.
The Neonatology Forum aims to be the custodian of quality standards in neonatal care and a watchdog to prevent irregular practices.
Newborn care was not a public health component in India till 1992, when UNICEF took up the Child Survival and Safe Motherhood programme. For the first time, a newborn care module was introduced to train more than 100,000 doctors and above 600,000 health workers in India. Today, Sick Newborn Care Units (SNCU), are becoming operative at the sub district level in the Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) centres under the NRHM.