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New DoH program aims to reduce infant deaths

Posted on: December 8, 2009

New DoH program aims to reduce infant deaths

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 21:02:00 12/07/2009

Filed Under: Health, Diseases

MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Health (DoH) launched a program Monday aimed at cutting down the number of infant deaths in the country.

Called the Essential Newborn Care (ENC) protocol, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III referred to it as a comprehensive strategy to improve the health of the newborn through interventions before conception during pregnancy, soon after birth, and in the postnatal period.

The program aims to reduce the total number of infant deaths in the country to two-thirds, according to DoH. Health authorities said the Philippines is among the top 42 countries that account for 90 percent of all deaths of children under five years old.

In the country, neonatal and post-neonatal deaths declined the slowest over the past 20 years with the reduction of only 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively, from 1988 to 2003.

The decline slowed down in the last ten years as under five-year-old mortality rate decreased to only 32 per 1,000 live births in 2003 from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1988.

“Our analysis showed that 50 percent of these [newborn] deaths occur during the first two days of life due to birth asphyxia (31 percent), complications of prematurity (30 percent) and severe infection (19 percent),” Duque explained.

Through the ENC protocol, Duque is optimistic it will help reduce by half the count of newborn deaths in the country based on the Medium Development Goal on reducing newborn mortality rate or in the country, to six per 1,000 live births by 2015.

Under the ENC protocol, DoH will focus on the first few hours of life of the newborn by guiding health workers and medical practitioners in providing evidence-based essential newborn care that fall under time-bound, non-time bound and unnecessary procedures.

“Time bound interventions should be routinely performed first and include: immediate drying, skin to skin contact followed by clamping of the cord after one to three minutes, non-separation of the newborn from the mother and breastfeeding initiation,” Duque said.

Non-time bound interventions include immunizations, eye care, Vitamin K administration, weighing and washing, while unnecessary procedures include routine suctioning, routine separation of newborns for observation, administration of prelacteals like glucose water or formula and foot printing, Duque added.

DoH is launching the said program in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

WHO country representative Dr. Soe Nyunt-U said more mothers should be educated on the importance of breastfeeding—especially after childbirth—to take advantage of nutrients from colostrum or the “first milk” produced by the mother after childbirth.

“Sadly, mothers just take two minutes to breastfeed their newborn child. That is hardly enough for the child to benefit from the antibodies and nutrients from colostrum, which is essential to protect the baby from infections and bacteria. All babies are prone to infection right after childbirth,” said Soe.

He said the lack of knowledge on breastfeeding and sanitary health facilities makes a baby born in a developing country to be 13 times more likely to die within the first five years than a child born in an industrialized country, based on data from the United Nations Population Fund.

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