An Update on Thrive Networks’ Newborn Health Program
In 2003, Thrive Networks began working to fill a desperate need in nine low-resource countries that have struggled to save newborn babies from needless death and disability. In many developing nations, babies die or are severely disabled due to easily treatable conditions – conditions that rarely rise to a level of danger in the U.S. or most developed nations.
Although strides have been made in saving children under five, little progress has been made in saving the newborn. The World Health Organization estimates that, in 2015, 5.9 million children under five died worldwide, with 45% – an estimated 2.7 million – of those deaths occurring in the neonatal period (from birth to 28 days). Ninety-eight percent of these newborn deaths were in low-resource countries.
Thrive moved to identify and address many of the causes of these problems – problems such as respiratory distress, jaundice, hypothermia and infection. The causes are many, but include two crucial facts: critical equipment is either non-existent or unsuitable for use in low-resource settings, and doctors and nurses lack sufficient training on equipment use and infection-prevention procedures.
Creating an effective, sustainable approach
Starting with Vietnam in partnership with a Vietnamese social enterprise, MTTS, we began providing appropriate equipment and training in hospitals to increase the rate of survival and reduce the rate of disabilities for thousands of newborns, ultimately working in a host of countries in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.
More than 10 years out from the program’s debut, our work has reached near-capacity in many of the countries we served. To date, we have provided more than 800 CPAP respiratory machines, more than 900 phototherapy machines to treat jaundice, and nearly 550 infant warmers. All are suitable for the low-resource settings where they are used. Our trainings and ongoing equipment maintenance ensure that our efforts will be sustained.
Although there is always more to be done, we have completed our work in most locations, and will continue to focus our efforts in three key countries – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – where we previously conducted a vigorous newborn health program and continue to have active water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education programs underway.
We take this opportunity to summarize our most recent accomplishments in four nations:
Since we began our Newborn Health Program in the Philippines in 2012, we have reached 85 hospitals across the country. We have scaled our efforts to the point where our measures are sustainable and will have a lasting impact on newborn care. Among our efforts, we have:
- Installed 64 CPAP machines, designed to help newborns in respiratory distress to breathe.
- Installed 120 overhead phototherapy and 96 Firefly phototherapy machines to help babies with jaundice.
- Trained more than 850 doctors, nurses and other clinicians and technicians on the use of equipment and on the importance of infection-prevention efforts.
- Established an equipment maintenance and distribution service center in Manila.
We began working in Myanmar in 2012. The program started with the support of the Ministry of Health as a pilot program involving four hospitals. In collaboration with Yangon Central Women’s Hospital, we ultimately served a total of 50 hospitals, where we distributed nearly 200 pieces of equipment and trained more than 500 clinicians and technicians. In addition, we provided crucial supplies such as hand sanitizer and pulse oximeters.
Our trainings have included sessions on jaundice detection and treatment, infection control, and delivery. We also began a nurse volunteer program in 2015, training more than 100 nurses on items such as infection prevention, basic newborn care, respiratory care, jaundice and thermal protection in partnership with Mandalay Children’s Hospital (MCH) 550 and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). After closing our work in Myanmar this past year, we handed over all relationships to VSO, offering the possibility that the program will be expanded in the future.
In 2015, we began a program in southern and central Benin to reduce infant mortality and morbidity. We developed capacity in four leading hospitals, all of which received intensive clinical and technical training and have been provided with a complete package of appropriate medical equipment and supplies, including CPAP, phototherapy machines, radiant warmers and infection control materials. With the help of universities in Canada and Benin, we trained 40 clinicians, and another 12 physicians who will continue to train other medical personnel.
We began our program in Uganda in 2015, reaching 24 hospitals in all. The hospitals include those in the Embrace Infant Warmer program, which has been transitioned out of East Meets West and is now running on its own.
More than 100 babies per month are being treated with the Embrace warmers, and we provided 10 hospitals with equipment: three received the full suite – including CPAP, phototherapy, radiant warmers, and infection prevention and nursing care equipment – and seven received all except CPAP. Clinicians were given the training necessary to use the equipment appropriately, and we made the most of this training opportunity by inviting doctors from our 2015 Somaliland program to attend the training as well.
As indicated above, we have made a strategic decision to re-focus our resources on three priority countries – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – in an effort to further strengthen our already-deep ties in these nations. Through our previous efforts in this region, the Newborn Health Program provided life-saving equipment and training to more than 140 hospitals – providing more than 1500 pieces of equipment and training more than 1400 clinicians in total. These hospitals continue to need new machines, as current ones become outdated, and a new crop of clinicians needs training to supplement their formal education. The facilities also need critical materials such as hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of infections. We are grateful for your continued support for these efforts, as we work to have an even greater impact on improving the quality of newborn care.