Eight million children under the age of five die every year from preventable diseases. Of those eight million deaths, 2.8 million are neonates according to the World Health Organization. Key interventions like Kangaroo Mother Care, pre-and postnatal care, deliveries in a hospital setting with trained health workers, and exclusive breastfeeding are some proven ways to keep more babies alive.
Two leading researchers, Dr. Joanne Katz, Professor and Associate Chair at the Department of International Health of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Dr. Abdhalah Ziraba, Associate Research Scientist at the African Population and Health Research Center have both won $50,000 from CappSci‘s Data for Life Prize to collect data on scalable, low-cost solutions that have the potential to save lives.
Dr. Katz will study the use of portable ultrasound for expecting mothers in rural Nepal where home births are highly common. A number of risk factors appear during the third trimester that can be detected with the help of portable ultrasound machines, allowing women to seek care and prepare for medical facility-based deliveries.
Dr. Ziraba will study Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for new mothers and neonates in Kenya. KMC involves immediate skin-to-skin contact of mother and baby, frequent breastfeeding and maternal-infant bonding. The non-medical intervention aims to reduce preterm and underweight deaths, which are often the result of hypothermia and poor nutrition.
“It was most exciting and gratifying to find out that our work identifying pregnant women with problems late in pregnancy needing specialized delivery care using portable ultrasound equipment in rural Nepal had been funded by the Data for Life Prize,” said Dr. Katz. “These are women who usually deliver at home or in facilities that cannot take care of these problems. By knowing in advance about these concerns, they can plan to deliver in a facility with the right staff and equipment to help save their lives and those of their infants.”
“While the under-five mortality rates have been reducing in the last 10-15 years in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of babies dying before the age of one month has not been improving. The coverage of interventions for averting these deaths remains low, and more effort is needed in assessing alternatives that can save the lives of preterm and underweight babies. APHRC will utilize this prize to support work aimed at averting death of preterm and underweight babies through a tailored Community level Kangaroo Mother Care intervention in two slums of Nairobi City,” said Dr. Ziraba.