Skip main navigation

Summary of Week 4

Summary of the week's learning and key issues in the health of newborns from Professor Joy Lawn.
JOY LAWN: At the end of this week, we have seen that there are around 6 million deaths at the time of birth, just when new life and celebration is expected. We’ve realised that newborn deaths have come onto the agenda not just because of the large number, but because of the linkage to a target for child survival. Newborn deaths are now around 45% of under-five deaths. And during the Millennium Development Goal era, there’s been a huge focus on child survival. And that’s really what’s driven ongoing attention and action for newborn deaths.
We can see that, unfortunately, because still births haven’t had a target, and the baby who’s born even five minutes before birth– the intrapartum stillbirth– doesn’t count within global data and the global burden of disease. And this has impeded recognition, political action, for stillbirths, even though we now have more data to drive that action. We have seen what the main causes of both newborn deaths and stillbirths are. So for newborn deaths, three primary causes around the world. Preterm birth, complications during delivery, and infections. We’ve also learned about the Every Newborn action plan driven by the United Nations, but also by an up swelling of the country demand for action with many countries involved and already bringing change.
Greatest opportunity in our generation, for seeing change for newborns and stillbirths around the world. And as we close on this week and move into next week’s module, we move to the next section of the life course, as the baby reaches one month and graduates from being a newborn into being an infant and then a child. And next week we will be looking at what it takes for that newborn to go on to be alive and thriving.

We have now reached the end of Week 4. We have learnt that neonatal deaths and stillbirths total almost 6 million each year.

Growing attention for the issue of newborn deaths has been driven by MDG4 (reduce child mortality) since 45% under-five deaths are in the first month of life. 70% of newborn deaths are preventable without intensive care, but progress for reducing these is slower than for maternal or child deaths. Stillbirths were not accounted for as a factor in the MDGs and progress has been even slower in reducing their numbers. Shockingly for over 1 million full-term stillbirths die during labour: a sensitive indicator of quality of care.

Given the huge burden, the effect on families, and national development, there is increasing commitment to change. The Every Newborn Action Plan, supported by all 194 UN member states and already moving fast in many countries, shows that this commitment comes from the grassroots up, not just top down.

To reach targets for ending preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 2030, there are many countries that will have to more than double their current rate of progress. We know there are effective interventions, but we need to act differently. In every region of the world there are countries that have achieved their targets, such as Peru, Bangladesh, Malawi and others. We hope that you will also be part of that change in your country.

In Week 5 we continue our journey through the lifecycle, moving from newborns as they pass the critical one month mark and become infants and children. We’ll learn of the remarkable progress for child survival and the lessons learned from this, highlighting conditions left behind and new threats to child health and development

This article is from the free online

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education