The suboptimal use of technology in middle-income countries is the cause of increased burden of disability among preterm babies who survive the neonatal period.
Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, the Upper East Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said “In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks die due to lack of feasible, cost-effective care such as warmth, breastfeeding support, basic care for infections and breathing difficulties.
“In high-income countries, almost all of these babies survive. Suboptimal use of technology in middle-income settings like Ghana is causing an increased burden of disability among preterm babies who survive the neonatal period,” he added.
Dr Dzotsi said this in a speech delivered on his behalf at the Upper East Regional Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staff durbar in Bolgatanga to climax this year’s Prematurity Month celebration held on the theme; “Zero separation, Act now! Keep parent and born too soon together.”
He said the Regional Health Directorate was concerned about the preterm survival struggle occasioned by complications associated with immature lungs, hypothermia, poor feeding and slow weight gain.
Such complications made some survivors suffer lifetime inability, including learning disabilities, visual and hearing problems, he added.
He said some risk factors for preterm birth included previous premature birth and being pregnant with multiples, adding that “Globally an estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year, that is more than one in ten babies.”
Dr Dzotsi said prematurity was the leading cause of death in children less than five years globally, and in almost all countries with reliable data, preterm birth rates were on the increase.
According to him, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had developed new guidelines with recommendations for improving the outcomes of preterm births saying “This set of key interventions can improve the chances of survival and health outcomes of preterm babies.”
The guidelines included interventions provided by the expectant mothers, “steroid injection before birth, antibiotics when her water breaks before the onset of labour, and magnesium sulphate to prevent future neurological impairment of the child.”
He said interventions for the baby also included thermal care, feeding support, Kangaroo Mother Care, safe oxygen use and other treatments to help babies breathe more easily, and commended the Regional Hospital for supporting the electronic Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response (eMPDSR) project.
Every November is usually observed as World Prematurity Month to create awareness among members of the public and stakeholders about premature births, and initiate workable measures to prevent and appropriately manage preterm babies.
As part of activities to celebrate the month, staff of the NICU engaged in media sensitization, training programmes and health talk at various Antenatal Clinics, and float on major streets in the Bolgatanga Municipality, with similar activities across health facilities in Municipalities and Districts with NICU services in the Region.