Let’s take first steps together
Preemies around the world need our support
Aligning the standards of neonatal care in all countries, but above all striving to ensure that decision makers, who have a real impact on the shape of healthcare system, change their way of thinking and agree that health is an investment that needs constant expenditure – those are the conclusions reached by participants of the International Summit for impacting the standards of care for newborns, “Let’s take the first steps together” held between 13 and 14 November 2014 in Warsaw. Representatives of 18 countries including doctors, members of NGOs acting for newborns, psychologists, sociologists and physical therapists participated in the event.
Premature birth is one of the main causes of newborn mortality and various post-birth complications. Thus, investing in perinatal care during the first days of life as well as raising the level of care for the mother and the newborn are the main goals of the World Health Organisation. Dr Paulina Miśkiewicz, Head of World Health Organisation Country Office for Poland, has stated that a lot has been already done and newborn mortality has decreased from 33 to 21%. Sadly, the level depends on particular country and its development level. While in highly developed countries 90% of babies born under 28 weeks gestation survive, the figure is only 10% in poorly developed states. Next to premature births, congenital disorders are a major problem causing newborn mortality. Disorders that occur most often are heart disorders. Often they are discovered even before the baby is born and thanks to highly advanced medicine, they can be more and more often successfully treated. To improve the patient’s prognosis, a comprehensive approach and cooperation between neonatologists, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons is essential. Support is also provided to parents ensuring they have sufficient strength to fight and hope for the healthy development of their baby. In Poland, 10 babies with congenital heart disorders are born every day.
One of the reasons behind serious health complications leading to hospitalisation and deaths among newborns is the RS virus. As it was underlined by Professor Tibor Ertl, the President of the Neonatology Advisory Committee to the Secretary of State for Health in Hungary, the RS virus is the most common pathogen causing acute infections of the respiratory system among children below 5 years of age as well as the reason behind difficult hospitalization and deaths among newborns. It is therefore essential that all newborns from RSV risk groups have equal access to prophylaxis preventing them from infections. According to Professor Ertl, parents’ awareness about the dangers of RSV is equally important. Groups at risk of severe lower respiratory failure caused by RS virus include: premature infants, newborns with bronchopulmonary dysplasia and children with congenital heart disorders. In Hungary, these groups are covered by prophylaxis against RS virus, but this is not a standard approach in other countries. In Poland, the “Coalition for preemies” fights to extend eligibility for the drug programme, because as emphasized by prof. Maria Katarzyna Borszewska-Kornacka, President of the Polish Neonatal Society, congenital heart defects are the leading problem among newborns and these children are very susceptible to RSV infection.
During the Summit participants engaged in a discussion about the necessity for the implementation of neonatal care in accordance with the most recent medical knowledge as well as European and global standards. This directly impacts on the health and safety of newborns. Professor Ryszard Lauterbach, Małopolska Province Consultant for Neonatology, cited the example of non-invasive ventilation. Changes regarding non-invasive ventilation were introduced in Poland 10 years ago, which impacted on the level of its employment. Today, non-invasive ventilation is the simplest method of protection for underdeveloped lungs among premature babies and it is used in 80% of newborns. The Polish Neonatal Society is working on recommendations in other areas related to neonatal care in order to ensure that every centre in Poland provides the highest quality of newborn care.
Premature babies constitute the group of newborns requiring the highest level of care both from medical staff and parents. Silke Mader, the President of the European Foundation for the care of newborns (EFCNI) talked about the needs and problems of preemies and their parents. She underlined that the needs of parents of premature babies are the same regardless of the skin colour, religion or sex. Anyone, whose child is born prematurely, faces anxiety for the baby’s health - will the child develop properly? Will the baby be disabled? What awaits the baby in the future in relation to health burdens caused by premature birth? The parents need support from the medical staff while there baby is in hospital and afterwards, and this includes psychological and financial support because not everyone can afford rehabilitation which is so important in the case of preemies. Silke Mader and her Foundation strive to change the situation so that the parents do not have to face the same problems as she did 17 years ago, when her baby was born preterm.
During the Summit, medical experts highlighted the importance of appropriate perinatal care as well as care provided after discharge from hospital to ensure correct development of newborns. It was demonstrated, that even babies born with extremely low birth mass, or those born with congenital disorders are capable of healthy development and becoming happy and talented young people. Participants of the Summit had the chance to admire some of the talented preemies – young singers, piano players, artists and athletes. In a gesture of solidarity with babies and their parents, on the day of the Summit, key buildings in Warsaw – the Palace of Science and Culture, Sofitel Victoria Hotel where the Summit was held, Kubicki Arcades at the Royal Castle and the Presidential Palace changed their colour to Purple, which is the colour of hope for premature babies.