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A Promise to Save the Lives of Preterm Babies on World Prematurity Day

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Healthcare leaders in Telangana joined together at Niloufer Hospital to pledge their support to improve health outcomes for babies born preterm. Premature birth and low birthweight is a leading cause of infant mortality in India.

At Niloufer Hospital today, Dr. K Manohar, CEO of the Aarogyasri Health Care Trust, and Dr. Ramesh Reddy, Director Medical Education of the Government of Telangana joined the Medical Superintendent of Niloufer, Dr. Murali Krishna, and other key staff from the hospital, the Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Fernandez Hospital, and representatives from ACCESS Health International, UNICEF, and the National Neonatology Forum to place their handprints on a white sheet to symbolize their promise to ensure that preterm babies are given access key interventions that can help ensure their survival. Two infants who were born preterm with birthweight between 700-900 grams were successfully managed at Niloufer Hospital, and present with their mothers for the event.

Telangana has become a leader in providing quality care to newborns in India. Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been ranked Telangana second in the country in terms of quality of care in Special Newborn Care Units. For the country overall, while there have been recent declines in maternal and neonatal mortality too many babies continue to die of complications due to premature birth. Of the 27 million babies born in India annually, approximately 13 percent (3.5 million) are born preterm and more than one quarter (7.6 million) have low birthweight. Being born prematurely or with a low birthweight significantly increases the risk of dying in the days immediately following birth.

Participants at today’s events pledged to implement a series of key interventions that can improve survival rates of preterm babies:

  • Providing antenatal corticosteroids to mothers at risk of preterm delivery that have been proven to reduce morbidity and mortality for newborns
  • Skin to skin contact, called Kangaroo Mother Care, between babies and their mothers, fathers, grandmothers or other loved ones
  • Respiratory support to help the lungs of preterm babies grow strong, including continuous positive airway pressure, caffeine, surfectants, and other tools
  • Early and exclusive breastfeeding

Dr. K Manohar, CEO of the Aarogyasri Health Care Trust assured the availability of  Aarogyasri revolving fund to be used for Quality improvement initiatives for newborns.

According to Dr Ramesh Reddy, Director Medical Education of the Government of Telangana, “Today, the maximum number of premature babies are referred to Niloufer hospital. At any given time there are 250 to 300 babies in the hospital. The state government has taken steps to provide advanced infrastructure to this hospital including level three facilities, high frequency ventilators, round the clock laboratory facilities and free supply of medicines. I believe that with Quality Improvement initiatives, a robust infrastructure, and introduction of KCR kit program, we will be able to save more premature babies. Though Telangana’s performance in terms of neonatal and maternal mortality rates is lower than most states, we look forward to higher survival rates and better ranking.”

Dr. Himabindu Singh, Head of the Department of Neonatology at Niloufer Hospital mentioned that Niloufer Hospital has been actively adopting low cost solutions to help preterm births. She mentioned that Niloufer is the only government hospital in Telangana that provides tertiary care for newborns. Further Dr Singh said that, Niloufer is the single government hospital in India with advanced services, example human milk bank and management of retinopathy of prematurity in preterm babies.

Dr Ajitkumar Sudke, Director of Quality and Process Improvement at ACCESS Health International added, “We know the interventions that can save the lives of preterm babies. The challenge now is to make sure frontline healthcare workers have the support they need to identify the main causes of newborn death in their own hospitals and to apply the proven interventions that can save newborn lives. Teaching healthcare workers about the process of quality improvement is one of the best ways to provide support.” ACCESS Health has been implementing a quality improvement program at Niloufer and other hospitals affiliated with the Aarogyasri Health Care Trust called Safe Care, Saving Lives.

Dr. Srinivas Murki, Head of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Fernandez Hospital both highlighted the importance of improving the quality of care for newborns and finding simple, small measures through a quality improvement process to significantly advance health outcomes for preterm babies. He shared that the reasons for preterm births included early age at marriage, early or late age at conception, high prevalence of anemia, and infections. He mentioned that implementing low cost solutions will help the state achieve the neonatal mortality reduction targets.

Other honorary guests present at the event included Dr.Srikrishna, Child Health Consultant, UNICEF Hyderabad, Dr. M Surendranath, Secretary, National Neonatology Forum, Telangana State Chapter, and Dr. Kalyan Srinivas, Associate Professor, Department of Neonatology, Niloufer Hospital.

Anna Dirksen

Anna Dirksen

Anna Dirksen is Director of Communications at ACCESS Health International and leads the global communications strategy for the organization.

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