Understanding health systems to improve community and facility level newborn care among displaced populations in South Sudan: a mixed methods case study

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Original Article

Background:
Targeted clinical interventions have been associated with a decreased risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality. In conflict-affected countries such as South Sudan, however, implementation of lifesaving interventions face barriers and facilitators that are not well understood. We aimed to describe the factors that influence implementation of a package of facility- and community-based neonatal interventions in four displaced person camps in South Sudan using a health systems framework.
Methods:
We used a mixed method case study design to document the implementation of neonatal interventions from June to November 2016 in one hospital, four primary health facilities, and four community health programs operated by International Medical Corps. We collected primary data using focus group discussions among health workers, in-depth interviews among program managers, and observations of health facility readiness. Secondary data were gathered from documents that were associated with the implementation of the intervention during our study period.
Results:
Key bottlenecks for implementing interventions in our study sites were leadership and governance for comprehensive neonatal services, health workforce for skilled care, and service delivery for small and sick newborns. Program managers felt national policies failed to promote integration of key newborn interventions in donor funding and clinical training institutions, resulting in deprioritizing newborn health during humanitarian response. Participants confirmed that severe shortage of skilled care at birth was the main bottleneck for implementing quality newborn care. Solutions to this included authorizing the task-shifting of emergency newborn care to mid-level cadre, transitioning facility-based traditional birth attendants to community health workers, and scaling up institutions to upgrade community midwives into professional midwives. Additionally, ongoing supportive supervision, educational materials, and community acceptance of practices enabled community health workers to identify and refer small and sick newborns.
Conclusions:
Improving integration of newborn interventions into national policies, training institutions, health referral systems, and humanitarian supply chain can expand emergency care provided to women and their newborns in these contexts.
Keywords:
Newborn health, South Sudan, Conflict, Community, Facility, Health system, Displaced populations
 

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