Lessons Learned Saving Newborn Lives in India

The Safe Care, Saving Lives program launched in partnership with the Aarogyasri Health Care Trust in 2014 is designed to save newborn lives, reducing the neonatal and perinatal mortality rate in India by fifteen percent over a four year period. Currently, more than 680,000 newborn babies die every year in India. It is the highest number of newborn deaths in the world.

While the Government of India has worked hard to increase access to healthcare across the country, these efforts have not led to comparable declines in neonatal and maternal mortality.We believe that a question of quality lies at the heart of this lack of corresponding declines. While more mothers and newborn babies may have access to healthcare services, the quality of those services may not be as high as necessary. The Safe Care, Saving Lives program is focused on improving the quality of maternal and newborn care, through a process of ongoing quality improvement.

The program now covers fifty four Special Newborn Care Units and Neonatal Intensive Care Units in public and private healthcare facilities in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and will eventually scale up to eight five facilities. The healthcare facilities were selected because they are all empaneled with the public health insurance programs in the two states. This approach is what makes the Safe Care, Saving Lives program so unique. By working closely with the public health insurance providers, Safe Care, Saving Lives is able to create lasting institutional change, improving the quality of care across the entire healthcare market and strengthening the government’s leading role in ongoing quality improvement.

Safe Care, Saving Lives program teams provide in person and ongoing support to staff at each healthcare facility, teaching them how to identify areas for improvement, develop and test change ideas, and then collect and analyze data to measure results. Facilities link actions with outcomes, allowing facility staff to see the immediate effect of changes and the efficiency of their actions.

Under the Safe Care, Saving Lives program, facilities share their successes and failures with each other in learning sessions, which are organized at four to six month intervals. During these sessions, facilities learn about successful practices developing in other facilities and are able to consider adopting them on their own. The facilities also learn to understand the differences between quality assurance – measuring actual performance against accepted standards and identifying areas for improvement – with continuous quality improvement, where facilities seek to continually improve upon past performance.

Late last year, Aarogyasri Health Care Trust, Commissioner Health and Family Welfare and ACCESS Health International organized the third Safe Care, Saving Lives learning session in Hyderabad at the Indian Institute of Health and Family Health. Staff from fifteen facilities participated in the session. Those facilities were all based in Telangana are are part of the first wave of facilities under the Safe Care, Saving Lives program. Take a look at our final report from the session, which describes the challenges, successes, and failures discussed.