| Siti Hajar |
THE country has notched significant improvements in its perinatal mortality rate over the past decade, it was revealed yesterday, with a reduction from 10.3 per 1,000 births to 7.5 per 1,000 births according to the Ministry of Health 2012 records.
During the 10th National Perinatal Symposium that concluded yesterday following a two-day gathering, Consultant Neonatologist Associate Professor Dr Elizabeth Chong said that though the figures have improved, more still needs to be done to reduce the number even further through the reduction of still births and early neonatal death rates in the first week of life.
“To reduce stillbirths, the health of a mother in pregnancy is vital, including near the time of delivery,” she said.
“Our safe delivery of the baby in the labour room and of those born outside hospitals should be improved.”
The first seven days after birth – described as being the most vulnerable week – is considered the most vital moment after delivery and a child’s survival will depend on how well hospitals care for a neonate. The ways in which the community cares for the child will also determine the figure for early neonatal deaths.
“It has been noted that while most countries have managed to bring down to a certain extent deaths in childhood, the neonatal death rate has been very slow to reduce,” she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the ‘Every Newborn’ Action Plan to overcome this particular challenge, which bodes well with this year’s symposium theme, ‘A New Chapter – Moving Forward, Caring for Babies and Mothers.
The theme, she explained, celebrates the upcoming move to the new Women and Children’s building at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital, which comes equipped with facilities that aim to better cater to the needs of this targeted demographic.
The symposium itself, she said, received positive response from health practitioners from both the private and public sectors as, for the very first time in its 10-year history, the event was held over a two-day period in response to popular demand from those related to the field.
“This speaks volumes of the dedication of health workers,” who showed up to take part in lectures and workshops that were delivered and facilitated by local as well as national speakers who are apt in the fields of mother and child care.
As part of the programme, a workshop on the Every Newborn Action Plan was also conducted, introducing participants to the World Health Organization’s paper on how participation can improve Community Healthcare to be better prepared for unintentional births outside hospitals and on improving home visits to new born babies in the community.
Future changes at the Ministry of Health include the currently discussed introduction of a new system of data collection as a means to improve the collection of relevant data by way of capturing all deaths in the country related to women of child-bearing age who might be pregnant and all unexpected deaths in babies and children.
Other activities in conjunction with the opening of the new building, meanwhile, included the Children’s Art Competition with a total of 345 entries, the winners of which received their prizes from Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Mohd Yusof.