Last week, Save the Children published a report entitled, “Ending Newborn Deaths.” The report highlights the need to concentrate on the reduction of newborn deaths as it lags behind the efforts of those tackling <5 deaths. The report calls on governments, world leaders, the private sector and philanthropists to commit to a five-point Newborn Promise to end these preventable deaths by increasing access and availability to skilled health workers, increasing funds for healthcare improvements, and decreasing user costs and fees for services, medicines and interventions.
While the report lists numerous factors that must to be addressed to reduce preventable deaths, a recent editorial by The Lancet also points out the need to specifically target young mothers (who make up 10% of all births) and adolescents who are known to have some of the most risky pregnancies and deliveries.
The Save the Children report says this about young mothers:
In low- and middle-income countries overall almost 10% of girls become mothers by the age of 16. They are at greater risk of losing their babies than women who become mothers later – mothers under 20 are 50% more likely to have a stillbirth or to lose their baby within the first week after birth than mothers aged 20–29 years.
By targeting adolescents, the Lancet argues, not only will there be a reduction in neonatal mortality, but by reducing child marriages, unwanted births, delaying their first child, and creating more options for education (including secondary, reproductive, and contraceptive education) these young women will be given the tools to start to take charge of their own health, work options and economic destinies. With the commitments of governments and local health agencies these women will not only better care for their own pregnancies and newborns, but also will have the education to know that they can advocate for their family’s health rights. Adolescent programming must include the input of the adolescents themselves, while ensuring that the programs give them the oversight, support, and education they need.
Lasting interventions are needed for newborn death reduction and who better to target than the adolescents who will eventually become the mothers who want their children to survive.