Improving neonatal health care in Nepal

Abstract: Every year, millions of newborns die globally due to poor quality of care around the time of birth. The overall aim of this thesis was to inform and test design of quality improvement (QI) interventions in Nepal. Contextual factors of importance for implementation of evidence-based newborn care practices were investigated, and the effect of a package of QI interventions on provision and experience of care was evaluated. In Paper I, we used focus group discussions and key informant interviews with delivery care staff to identify barriers and enablers for delayed umbilical cord clamping (DCC). Results indicate that delivery care staff needed knowledge of the benefits of DCC to gain motivation for change. Training, supervision and evaluation were requested to be able to change old routines, and they wanted authorized guidelines to bring uniformity in clinical practice. In Paper II, individual interviews with staff working with newborn infants were used to explore factors affecting parent-infant closeness in hospitals. Informants thought that offering a comfortable environment, privacy and counselling would enhance parent-infant closeness, but hospital resources were insufficient to achieve this. They described routines in the hospitals, and traditions and cultural beliefs in the society, which separated parents and newborns. In Paper III, a stepped-wedge randomized control design was applied to evaluate the effect of a QI package including training, facilitation and feedback, on patient satisfaction. The likelihood of women being overall satisfied with care during childbirth increased (aOR 1.66 [CI: 1.59-1.73, ICC: 0.275]) but the overall proportion of satisfaction was low, increasing from 58% to 62%. In Paper IV, clinical observations of early essential newborn care (EENC) practices were done before and after the introduction of the QI package. Overall, the rate of initiation of breastfeeding within one hour increased from 5% to 12%, and DCC increased from 22% to 33%. In conclusion, when designing interventions to improve quality of care, in Nepal or similar settings, it is important to use authorized guidelines and include education, training, supervision and evaluation. Hospital resources, routines and cultural beliefs need to be considered. The results indicate that a multi-pronged QI package can improve quality of newborn care in Nepal.

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