Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mrs Maya Hanoomanjee told NEWSNOW yesterday that three regional hospitals – Flacq, Jeetoo and Rose Belle – will soon have their own neonatal intensive care units.
At the moment only Victoria Hospital in Candos and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Hospital in Pamplemousses have such units. The move comes after a recent study on low birth weight (LBW) babies revealed that over the past 10 years, the LBW rate has increased from 13% (2000) to 17.4% last year.
The measure of LBW is when a baby has a birth weight of less than 2.5kg. The study was conducted from August 15 to December 15 last year and identified the risk factors associated with LBW in newborns in regional hospitals.
Mrs Hanoomanjee expressed concern that LBW babies are at higher risk of having medical problems which may lead to malnutrition, infections, handicaps, mental health problems and even death. Following up on the recommendations of the report, discussions will be held with all stakeholders to find ways and means to deal with the problem effectively.
An awareness campaign will also be launched. The minister listed measures taken to improve maternal and newborn care such as the availability of antenatal services in all hospitals, mediclinics and Area Health Centres (AHC) and the neonatal units at Victoria and SSRN hospitals.
These include medical examinations and tests for pregnant women; advice to pregnant mothers on nutrition, hygiene, physical activity and breastfeeding; echography services in hospitals and AHCs; medical examination of newborns till age three, free vaccination and the setting up of a nutrition surveillance system to control growth of a child till five years.
The study was carried out on 298 babies born with a birth weight of less that 2.5kg in each of the five regional hospitals. The “control” group consisted of 296 babies with birth weight equal to, or greater than, 3kg born during the study period.
The study also revealed that the risk factors for LBW babies were related to the educational level and occupational status of mothers, total family income, alcohol consumption, height of mother, total antenatal visits, sex of child and previous LBW babies.
It is reported that young adolescents are more likely to have LWB babies than older women. The study also shows that the rate of LBW babies was higher among unemployed mothers and housewives.
The mother’s educational status is another important determinant of the health of the newborn as educated women are more aware about their health and that of their baby and more knowledgeable about the use and availability of health services.
The report further says that the economic status of the household impacts on both the health of the mother and that of the newborn.
Smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including LBW babies. Furthermore, preterm births in previous pregnancies are predictors of LBW in subsequent pregnancies.
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