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Neonatal Mortality Levels for 193 Countries in 2009 with Trends since 1990: A Systematic Analysis of Progress, Projections, and Priorities

1 , * , 1 , 2 , 1 , 1 , 3 , 4 , 1 , on behalf of the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation and the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group

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      Mikkel Oestergaard and colleagues develop annual estimates for neonatal mortality rates and neonatal deaths for 193 countries for 1990 to 2009, and forecasts into the future.


      BackgroundHistorically, the main focus of studies of childhood mortality has been the infant and under-five mortality rates. Neonatal mortality (deaths <28 days of age) has received limited attention, although such deaths account for about 41% of all child deaths. To better assess progress, we developed annual estimates for neonatal mortality rates (NMRs) and neonatal deaths for 193 countries for the period 1990–2009 with forecasts into the future.Methods and FindingsWe compiled a database of mortality in neonates and children (<5 years) comprising 3,551 country-years of information. Reliable civil registration data from 1990 to 2009 were available for 38 countries. A statistical model was developed to estimate NMRs for the remaining 155 countries, 17 of which had no national data. Country consultation was undertaken to identify data inputs and review estimates. In 2009, an estimated 3.3 million babies died in the first month of life—compared with 4.6 million neonatal deaths in 1990—and more than half of all neonatal deaths occurred in five countries of the world (44% of global livebirths): India 27.8% (19.6% of global livebirths), Nigeria 7.2% (4.5%), Pakistan 6.9% (4.0%), China 6.4% (13.4%), and Democratic Republic of the Congo 4.6% (2.1%). Between 1990 and 2009, the global NMR declined by 28% from 33.2 deaths per 1,000 livebirths to 23.9. The proportion of child deaths that are in the neonatal period increased in all regions of the world, and globally is now 41%. While NMRs were halved in some regions of the world, Africa's NMR only dropped 17.6% (43.6 to 35.9).ConclusionsNeonatal mortality has declined in all world regions. Progress has been slowest in the regions with high NMRs. Global health programs need to address neonatal deaths more effectively if Millennium Development Goal 4 (two-thirds reduction in child mortality) is to be achieved.Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary

      Editors' Summary

      BackgroundEvery year, more than 8 million children die before their fifth birthday. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries and most are caused by preventable or treatable diseases. In 2000, world leaders set a target of reducing child mortality to one-third of its 1990 level by 2015 as Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4). This goal, together with seven others, is designed to help improve the social, economic, and health conditions in the world's poorest countries. In recent years, progress towards reducing child mortality has accelerated but remains insufficient to achieve MDG4. In particular, progress towards reducing neonatal deaths—deaths during the first 28 days of life—has been slow and neonatal deaths now account for a greater proportion of global child deaths than in 1990. Currently, nearly 41% of all deaths among children under the age of 5 years occur during the neonatal period. The major causes of neonatal deaths are complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery (birth asphyxia), and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia). Simple interventions such as improved hygiene at birth and advice on breastfeeding can substantially reduce neonatal deaths.Why Was This Study Done?If MDG4 is to be met, more must be done to prevent deaths among newborn babies. To improve survival rates and to monitor the effects of public-health interventions in this vulnerable group, accurate, up-to-date estimates of national neonatal mortality rates (NMRs, the number of neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births) are essential. Although infant (under-one) and under-five mortality rates are estimated annually for individual countries by the United Nations Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, annual NMR trend estimates have not been produced before. In many developed countries, child mortality rates can be calculated directly from vital civil registration data—records of all births and deaths. But many developing countries lack vital registration systems and child mortality has to be estimated using data collected in household surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (a project that helps developing countries collect data on health and population trends). In this study, the researchers estimate annual national NMRs and numbers of neonatal deaths for the past 20 years using the available data.What Did the Researchers Do and Find?The researchers used civil registration systems, household surveys, and other sources to compile a database of deaths among neonates and children under 5 years old for 193 countries between 1990 and 2009. They estimated NMRs for 38 countries from reliable vital registration data and developed a statistical model to estimate NMRs for the remaining 155 countries (in which 92% of global live births occurred). In 2009, 3.3 million babies died during their first month of life compared to 4.6 million in 1990. More than half the neonatal deaths in 2009 occurred in five countries—India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. India had the largest number of neonatal deaths throughout the study. Between 1990 and 2009, although the global NMR decreased from 33.2 to 23.9 deaths per 1,000 live births (a decrease of 28%), NMRs increased in eight countries, five of which were in Africa. Moreover, in Africa as a whole, the NMR only decreased by 17.6%, from 43.6 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 35.9 per 1,000 live births in 2009.What Do These Findings Mean?These and other findings suggest that neonatal mortality has declined in all world regions since 1990 but that progress has been slowest in the regions with high NMRs such as Africa. Although there is considerable uncertainty around the estimates calculated by the researchers, these findings nevertheless highlight the slow progress in reducing the neonatal mortality risk over the past 20 years and suggest that the relative contribution of neonatal deaths to child deaths will increase into the future. Thus, if MDG4 is to be achieved, it is essential that national governments and international health bodies invest in improved methods for the measurement of neonatal deaths and stillbirths and increase their investment in the provision of care at birth and during the first few weeks of life.Additional InformationPlease access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4, and its Childinfo Web site provides detailed statistics about child survival and health, including a description of the United Nations Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation and a link to its database, and information on newborn care (some information in several languages)The World Health Organization also has information about the Millennium Development Goal 4, provides information on newborn mortality, and provides the latest estimates of child mortalityFurther information about the Millennium Development Goals is availableInformation is also available about the Demographic and Health Surveys

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      Most cited references 39

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      Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2008: a systematic analysis.

      Up-to-date information on the causes of child deaths is crucial to guide global efforts to improve child survival. We report new estimates for 2008 of the major causes of death in children younger than 5 years. We used multicause proportionate mortality models to estimate deaths in neonates aged 0-27 days and children aged 1-59 months, and selected single-cause disease models and analysis of vital registration data when available to estimate causes of child deaths. New data from China and India permitted national data to be used for these countries instead of predictions based on global statistical models, as was done previously. We estimated proportional causes of death for 193 countries, and by application of these proportions to the country-specific mortality rates in children younger than 5 years and birth rates, the numbers of deaths by cause were calculated for countries, regions, and the world. Of the estimated 8.795 million deaths in children younger than 5 years worldwide in 2008, infectious diseases caused 68% (5.970 million), with the largest percentages due to pneumonia (18%, 1.575 million, uncertainty range [UR] 1.046 million-1.874 million), diarrhoea (15%, 1.336 million, 0.822 million-2.004 million), and malaria (8%, 0.732 million, 0.601 million-0.851 million). 41% (3.575 million) of deaths occurred in neonates, and the most important single causes were preterm birth complications (12%, 1.033 million, UR 0.717 million-1.216 million), birth asphyxia (9%, 0.814 million, 0.563 million-0.997 million), sepsis (6%, 0.521 million, 0.356 million-0.735 million), and pneumonia (4%, 0.386 million, 0.264 million-0.545 million). 49% (4.294 million) of child deaths occurred in five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and China. These country-specific estimates of the major causes of child deaths should help to focus national programmes and donor assistance. Achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4, to reduce child mortality by two-thirds, is only possible if the high numbers of deaths are addressed by maternal, newborn, and child health interventions. WHO, UNICEF, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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        4 million neonatal deaths: when? Where? Why?

        The proportion of child deaths that occurs in the neonatal period (38% in 2000) is increasing, and the Millennium Development Goal for child survival cannot be met without substantial reductions in neonatal mortality. Every year an estimated 4 million babies die in the first 4 weeks of life (the neonatal period). A similar number are stillborn, and 0.5 million mothers die from pregnancy-related causes. Three-quarters of neonatal deaths happen in the first week--the highest risk of death is on the first day of life. Almost all (99%) neonatal deaths arise in low-income and middle-income countries, yet most epidemiological and other research focuses on the 1% of deaths in rich countries. The highest numbers of neonatal deaths are in south-central Asian countries and the highest rates are generally in sub-Saharan Africa. The countries in these regions (with some exceptions) have made little progress in reducing such deaths in the past 10-15 years. Globally, the main direct causes of neonatal death are estimated to be preterm birth (28%), severe infections (26%), and asphyxia (23%). Neonatal tetanus accounts for a smaller proportion of deaths (7%), but is easily preventable. Low birthweight is an important indirect cause of death. Maternal complications in labour carry a high risk of neonatal death, and poverty is strongly associated with an increased risk. Preventing deaths in newborn babies has not been a focus of child survival or safe motherhood programmes. While we neglect these challenges, 450 newborn children die every hour, mainly from preventable causes, which is unconscionable in the 21st century.
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          Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5.

          Maternal mortality remains a major challenge to health systems worldwide. Reliable information about the rates and trends in maternal mortality is essential for resource mobilisation, and for planning and assessment of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5), the target for which is a 75% reduction in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 1990 to 2015. We assessed levels and trends in maternal mortality for 181 countries. We constructed a database of 2651 observations of maternal mortality for 181 countries for 1980-2008, from vital registration data, censuses, surveys, and verbal autopsy studies. We used robust analytical methods to generate estimates of maternal deaths and the MMR for each year between 1980 and 2008. We explored the sensitivity of our data to model specification and show the out-of-sample predictive validity of our methods. We estimated that there were 342,900 (uncertainty interval 302,100-394,300) maternal deaths worldwide in 2008, down from 526,300 (446,400-629,600) in 1980. The global MMR decreased from 422 (358-505) in 1980 to 320 (272-388) in 1990, and was 251 (221-289) per 100,000 livebirths in 2008. The yearly rate of decline of the global MMR since 1990 was 1.3% (1.0-1.5). During 1990-2008, rates of yearly decline in the MMR varied between countries, from 8.8% (8.7-14.1) in the Maldives to an increase of 5.5% (5.2-5.6) in Zimbabwe. More than 50% of all maternal deaths were in only six countries in 2008 (India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In the absence of HIV, there would have been 281 500 (243,900-327,900) maternal deaths worldwide in 2008. Substantial, albeit varied, progress has been made towards MDG 5. Although only 23 countries are on track to achieve a 75% decrease in MMR by 2015, countries such as Egypt, China, Ecuador, and Bolivia have been achieving accelerated progress. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]World Health Organization, Department of Health Statistics and Informatics, Geneva, Switzerland
            [2 ]World Health Organization, Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, Geneva, Switzerland
            [3 ]London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
            [4 ]Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children, Cape Town, South Africa
            Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Sweden
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: MZO MI SC JEL CDM. Performed the experiments: MZO MI SC JEL CDM. Analyzed the data: MZO MI SC JEL CDM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: MZO MI SY WRM FMG SC JEL CDM. Wrote the first draft of the manuscript: MZO. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: MZO MI SC JEL CDM WRM FMG SY. ICMJE criteria for authorship read and met: MZO MI SY WRM FMG SC JEL CDM. Agree with manuscript results and conclusions: MZO MI SY WRM FMG SC JEL CDM.

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            Pages: 13
            Research Article
            Pediatric Epidemiology
            Global Health
            Non-Clinical Medicine
            Health Care Policy
            Health Statistics
            Public Health
            Child Health



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