The rate of stillbirths in rural areas of six developing countries fell more than 30 percent following a basic training program in newborn care for birth attendants, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study tracked more than 120,000 births. Pierre Buekens, dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, was a co-author of the paper.
The study tested the efficacy of a three-day Essential Newborn Care training regimen that covers basic newborn-care techniques, the importance of early breastfeeding, how to keep infants warm and dry, and signs of serious health problems.
The study, the largest of its kind, is one of the first to track the rate of infant deaths following the implementation of such a regimen. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, in addition to more than 3 million stillbirths worldwide each year, nearly 4 million infants die in their first month of life.
The results appear in the Feb. 21 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.