The Lancet Series on small, vulnerable newborns has issued a call for the standardisation of data, technology, and quality prenatal information to address the high rate of newborns born too small or too soon.
This rate currently stands at its highest at 20% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Globally, one in every four babies is either ‘born too small’ or ‘born too soon’, accounting for 1.9 million stillbirths and 1.4 million newborn deaths annually.
Survivors among these small, vulnerable newborns are susceptible to health problems throughout their lives, affecting human capital, economic productivity, and healthcare costs.
The Series, created through an international collaboration of scientists, presents a new conceptual framework that brings preterm birth, small for gestational age (SGA), and low birth weight (LBW) together under the umbrella term “small vulnerable newborns” (SVN).
This new terminology and framework provides global and local actors with a shared understanding of the issue, enabling them to work together to implement change.
The Series estimates that implementing eight accessible and cost-effective pregnancy interventions in low-and-middle-income countries could prevent 566,000 stillbirths and 5.2 million preterm or underweight births each year.
The estimated cost of implementing these measures stands at $1.1 billion by the year 2030.
The Series provides low-cost, evidence-based pregnancy interventions for the prevention of small vulnerable newborns and stillbirths. These interventions include multiple micronutrient supplements, treatment of syphilis, and treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria (a bacterial infection of the urine) for all women.
Speaking during the launch of the Lancet series in Kenya, Dr. Job Nyangena, Acting Head of the Division of Health Informatics at the Ministry of Health, reiterated the government’s commitment to implementing these preventive measures.
Despite global efforts to address the issue of small vulnerable newborns over the years, global trends show that the situation has not improved.
This indicates a pressing need for national actors, along with global partners, to commit to providing high-quality care for all women during pregnancy and at birth.
Prof Marleen Temmerman, Director of Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, East Africa (CoEWCH EA) says, “One out of 4 babies is born too early, too small, or stillborn. It is our moral duty to invest in the prevention of small vulnerable newborns through early and high-quality antenatal and childbirth care and girls’ and women’s reproductive rights.”
As part of the advocacy efforts to prevent small vulnerable newborns, Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, East Africa (CoEWCH EA) in collaboration with the Small Vulnerable Newborn Consortium, is hosting the regional launch of the Lancet Series on Small Vulnerable Newborns in Nairobi.