BACKGROUND: Preterm birth, a leading cause of neonatal mortality, has the highest burden in low-income countries. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published recommendations for interventions to improve preterm outcomes. Our analysis uses the Maternal and Neonatal Directed Assessment of Technology (MANDATE) model to evaluate the potential effects that WHO-recommended interventions could have had on preterm mortality in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.
METHODS: We modeled preterm birth subconditions causing mortality (respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis, birth asphyxia, and low birth weight). For each subcondition, models were populated with estimates of WHO-recommended intervention prevalence, case fatality, coverage, and efficacy. Various scenarios modeled improved coverage of single and combined interventions compared with baseline.
RESULTS: In 2015, approximately 500,000 neonatal deaths due to preterm birth occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Single interventions with the greatest impact on preterm mortality included oxygen/continuous positive airway pressure (44,000 lives saved), cord care (38,500 lives saved), and breastfeeding (30,200 lives saved). Combined with improved diagnosis/transfer to a hospital, the impact of interventions showed greater reductions in mortality (oxygen/continuous positive airway pressure, 134,100 lives saved; antibiotics, 28,600 lives saved). Combined interventions had the greatest impact. Together, hospital delivery with comprehensive care for respiratory distress syndrome saved 190,600 lives, and comprehensive thermal care, breastfeeding, and prevention/treatment for sepsis saved 94,400 lives.
CONCLUSION: In 2015, WHO-recommended interventions could have saved the lives of nearly 300,000 infants born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa. Combined interventions are necessary to maximize impact. Mathematical models such as MANDATE can estimate effects on health outcomes to allow health officials to prioritize implementation strategies.