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Newborn Signal Functions – a potential game changer in cutting newborn mortality in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Sunday 8 March 2020 - A national dissemination was held at icddr,b to communicate the methodology and findings of identifying newborn signal functions which is a representative shortlist of key interventions and activities that address major causes of morbidity or mortality and that are indicative of a certain type and level of care. 

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envision ending all preventable deaths among newborns and reducing the neonatal mortality rate to 12 per 1,000 live births or below. Achieving this ambitious target will require high coverage of evidence-based interventions at scale. The majority of these high-impact interventions are facility-based, thus appropriate service availability and readiness of health facilities is pivotal for delivering these interventions with quality. Unfortunately, there are no set standards or benchmarks for assessing newborn service readiness, which is also integral to programme planning and monitoring.

icddr,b in collaboration with National Newborn Health Program, Directorate General of Health Services and other partner organisationsconducted a study to identify a set of standards (i.e. signal functions) to assess the service availability and readiness of public health facilities in Bangladesh as it pertains to providing healthcare services to newborns.

The event started with welcome speech of honourable Dr. Md. Shamsul Haque, Line Director, Maternal Neonatal Child and Adolescent Health, DGHS. Dr. Jahurul Islam, Deputy Program Manager, Newborn Health, NNHP & IMCI, explained the methodology of identifying the NSFs.

The principal investigator of this study, Dr. Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman, Associate Scientist shared that “a total of 20 signal functions were identified, of them nine are primary, 13 are basic, 18 are comprehensive and 20 are advanced”.

While talking about the implications of this study, Dr. Muhammad Shariful Islam, Assistant Director, DGHS and PM, NNHP & IMCI said, “The signal functions were accepted as the ‘National Newborn Signal Functions’ by DGHS, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as other development partners”. The National Newborn Signal Functions will be used as standards for newborn programme planning and monitoring in Bangladesh, and could also be adapted to be used in other contexts.

Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Director General, Directorate General of Health Services was the Chair of the session.

Professor Dr Mohammod Shahidullah, President, Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council & Chairperson, National Technical Working Committee for Newborn Health was the Chief Guest. He said, “In order to achieve preventable deaths among newborns and reducing the Sustainable Development Goal related to neonatal, we must revise our present strategies and actions, and the findings discussed will definitely guide us in doing so.”

The event was organised by icddr,b in partnership with National Newborn Health Program (NNHP), Directorate General of Health Services(DGHS) and USAID, and graced by more than 100 participants from academicians, researchers, policy-makers, government, and development partners.