19 Oct 2015

Measuring What Matters For Every Newborn

More children are reaching their fifth birthday than ever before

There has been tremendous progress over the past decade or so in reaching more young children to prevent untimely tragedy.

The number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from 12.7 million in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. That’s real progress, but still a shocking statistic. That means that an estimated 16,000 children die every day before they reach the age of five.

This number can be brought down significantly. Most child deaths are caused by diseases that are readily preventable or treatable with proven and cost-effective interventions.

Every child deserves to survive and thrive

Child deaths within the first month of life account for an estimated 45 per cent of this overall number. Giving birth is still the riskiest time of life. We can accelerate the rate of progress by investing more in quality care during labour and in the first days of life.

Every year, 2.7 million newborns die and there are an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths, all from largely preventable causes. We know how to save young babies lives. Pre-term or small babies not only have the highest risk of newborn death, but this risk carries on into childhood. They are more likely to grow up to be too short for their age, or stunted, because they did not receive the right care and nutrition at the right time.

The Every Newborn Action Plan prioritises a number of inexpensive and proven solutions to prevent the majority of maternal and newborn deaths and avoid stillbirths.  These include quality care during childbirth, and simple interventions such as keeping newborns warm through skin-to-skin contact or assisting babies to breathe.

We know how to save lives, but lack quality data

While we know how to save lives, there is so much we don’t know about the care mothers and babies actually receive. We should be horrified by how little basic data we have on some of the fundamental moments of life and death. Reliable data collecting systems just don’t exist in many countries. In many places, the start of a child’s life is not always registered. If a child’s death is recorded, the reasons are too often vague or simply left-out. There are big gaps in collecting data on known risk factors like being born premature or low birth weight and also with the accurate recording of still births.

Stillbirths, especially the 1.2 million that occur during labour, are a highly sensitive indicator of quality of care. Many more babies would survive if their mothers received quality care during pregnancy and at the critical time around birth.

Without measurement, we are guessing

As part of our commitment to the Every Newborn Action Plan, we are investing $7.3 million over the next three years with a new grant to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to tackle some of the most important data gaps in newborn health. Only by investing in data and evidence can we measure the impact of what we do.

We lack standard indicators to measure coverage of some of the major causes of newborn deaths such as: resuscitationantenatal corticosteroidskangaroo mother care and treatment of infections.

The new investment builds on an existing grant to develop a five-year Every Newborn Measurement Improvement Roadmap to improve data on care at birth and of small and sick newborn babies.

Our new investment will help improve data in the following ways:

  • Test and validate priority newborn metrics and measurement tools in Bangladesh and Tanzania.
  • Strengthen measurement of newborn mortality and stillbirths through household surveys.
  • Institutionalise these metrics and tools in national and global data collection systems, so that they are routinely collected in countries.
  • Increase monitoring and evaluation capacity related to newborn health in high burden countries.

For more information on the new measurement approach please download the Every Newborn Data Report card: