Health Research Program

Each year, 2.8 million infants around the world do not survive their first month of life, and one million do not even survive their first 24 hours.

This pie chart shows the top causes of death among children under 5 years from 2016 WHO dataThe primary causes of newborn deaths (in the first month of life) include preterm birth, intrapartum-related complications (birth asphyxia or lack of breathing at birth), infections, and birth defects.1 Most of these deaths occur in developing countries, where only 13 percent of newborns receive care in the first 24 hours after birth. Key health interventions at birth and during the first week of life can prevent up to two-thirds of these newborn deaths.2

USAID’s Health Research Program improves the chances for newborn survival by using implementation research to increase access to and use of evidence-based, cost-effective practices. For example, community-based approaches empower families to care for newborns with simple preventative actions by linking communities to facilities, strengthening health systems, training health providers, and improving the quality of care in health facilities. Another example is the management of Possible Serious Bacterial Infections (PSBI) for young infants when referral is not feasible. 

The Program’s Ponya Mtoto project in Kenya is using formative research to improve newborn health in Kenya and the PSBI Community of Practice links global policymakers, implementers, providers, and donors for knowledge sharing.  The Health Research Program has also been instrumental in advancing the introduction, national scale up, and local manufacture of chlorhexidine for newborn umbilical cord care. In addition, the Program is supporting implementation research  to explore recognition of illnesses, care-seeking and referral patterns for both maternal and newborn complications, ultimately leading to policy change that improve access to and quality of services. The ACERS project in Ghana aims to improve maternal and newborn health and survival and the MaNe Project in Uganda aims to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity among the urban poor through improved transport and referral.

To learn more about efforts to reduce newborn mortality, please visit USAID’s newborn health page.

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