Reflections of Lydia - Part 3
Author: Ademuwagun, Lydia
Today, the data collection team visited the Ghana Health Service Office in Tamale to interview policymakers and health officials that have been involved in the charge to reduce the rate of neonatal mortality in the Northern Region. With the assistance of a staff member, my colleagues and I were able to identify suitable interview participants and schedule appointments to meet with them. Conversing with these individuals provided us with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the government actions and political inclinations that facilitated the decline in the number of newborn deaths at both the facility and community level. We were also afforded the privilege of learning more about the strategies used to successfully implement interventions on a wide scale and the challenges associated with this process.
The woman that I interviewed was a public health nurse who has lived in the Northern Region for the past couple of decades. During the interview, she described the neonatal health-related interventions that have been conducted by Ghana Health Service and their development partners in the Northern Region. Among the facility-level interventions were trainings for health workers on essential newborn care, life-saving techniques such as neonatal resuscitation, and sanitary delivery and facility maintenance practices. Community-level interventions included health education programs for community members on healthy pregnancy behaviors, the dangers of home delivery, and safe newborn care practices; the provision of means of transportation such as yellow-yellows and motorbikes for community members to transport pregnant women to health facilities for antenatal care visits, delivery, and postnatal care appointments; and the establishment of neonatal intensive care units in existing facilities. A common theme throughout the interview was the vital role that improvements in accessibility to care and increased knowledge dissemination have played in improving neonatal health outcomes in the Northern Region.
I was particularly interested by the interview participant’s discussion surrounding her thoughts on the major reasons for the decline in neonatal mortality. She shared that greater attention was shifted to the issue of neonatal mortality at the policy level due to the realization that earlier efforts to reduce under-5 mortality failed to sufficiently address the needs of the newborn. Data on the state of neonatal health were collected to identify gaps in quality and coverage of care; resources were invested into building the capacity of health workers involved in delivery and newborn care; and moves were made to address the root causes of neonatal mortality. The interview participant made it clear that the decline in the number of newborn deaths in the Northern Region was the result of a concerted effort of policymakers, health workers, and community leaders to prioritize the lives of the next generation of Ghanaian nation builders.