| Siti Hajar |
AS THE international community moves forward in providing the best possible healthcare to its citizens, local health policy makers have been urged to follow in the footsteps of its global counterparts in developing measures aimed at better improving the lives of those in the country.
With special emphasis on expectant mothers and newborn infants, the Minister of Health yesterday stressed that the current clinical Standard Operating Procedures and interventions for infant and mother care should be based on the recently endorsed Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) introduced by the World Health Organization with the prerogative to reduce maternal and infant death on a global scale among member countries.
Speaking at the opening of the 10th National Perinatal Symposium held at the Ministry of Health in Berakas, Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Mohd Yusof reminded health practitioners from both the government and private sectors that, “We need to check whether our system not only complies with what is being suggested, but how we might make it even better to suit our own circumstances in Brunei.”
The ENAP, which was sanctioned in May, recognises the need to intensify action urgently as a means to end preventable neonatal deaths and preventable stillbirths through improving access to, and quality of, healthcare for women and newborns. It calls for targeted improvements in reducing mortality rates for newborn babies and their mothers by being prepared for, what the minister described as, ‘the most dangerous day of their lives – the day of birth.’
“Protecting newborns means ensuring proper care for their mothers before, during and after pregnancy,” he said, adding that the majority of such deaths, caused by complications related to prematurity, birth and severe infections, are indeed preventable.
“The vision of the ENAP is of a world where there are no preventable deaths of newborns, or stillbirths, where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth celebrated, and babies and children survive, thrive and reach their full potential.”
With a total of five strategic objectives, the ENAP aims to strengthen and invest in care during labour, birth and the first day and week of life; improve the quality of maternal and newborn care; reach every woman and every newborn and reduce inequities; harness the power of parents, families and communities and; count every newborn in terms of measurement, programme-tracking and accountability.
Though the mortality rate in Brunei has reduced significantly over the past half-decade from 100 per 1,000 live births in the 1950s to the current rate of 9.3 per 1,000 live births in 2012, 7.5 per 1,000 live births for perinatal mortality and 5.4 per 1,000 live births for neonatal mortality in the same year, the minister reminded that complacency among stakeholders is not an option and cooperation from the public is highly sought after in caring for the community as a whole.
“We must turn the mirror on ourselves to share responsibility, to take ownership for our own health. We now, therefore, strive to educate our community and change the mindset on how we need to better look after ourselves and our own health by adopting a healthy lifestyle throughout the course of our life,” especially in facing current health challenges including maternal obesity, diabetes as well as hypertension – all of which have the potential to severely threaten pregnancies.
“The hospitals and health centres are here to help treat and manage diseases,” he assured, “but the emphasis must start to shift from looking at the healthcare system and medicines as the only solution.”
In the meantime, the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam continues to invest wisely as a cost-effective approach in the healthcare system through a number of ways, including introducing programmes for both healthcare professionals and patients targeted at mothers and young children as well as the construction of new facilities to suit the needs of the people.
Among the latest initiatives include the Universal Hearing Screening for all newborn infants as of next year. It will first commence at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital and move onwards to other districts.
It was also shared that the Ministry of Health has received approval from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the United Kingdom for the Sultanate to adopt their curriculum as part of the country’s healthcare development for the current on-going Specialist Training Programme in Paediatrics.