The International Maternal Newborn Health Conference 2023
In the realm of maternal and neonatal health, the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference (IMNHC) 2023 is an important platform for advancing solutions and accelerating progress. This year, IMNHC was held in Cape Town, South Africa, after a hiatus of over eight years. The global gathering brought together over 1,700 stakeholders from around the world, united in their mission to improve maternal and newborn survival rates, prevent stillbirths, and achieve the ambitious targets described in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Key Takeaways from Maternova
Maternova representatives –Dr. Gabriela Salvador (CEO of Maternova) and I participated in the conference to bridge the gap between stakeholders, facilitate dialogue, and drive scalable innovations. Below are my main takeaways from the conference with regards to neonatal health and survival:
The Lancet’s new series on neonatal health.
One major note on the subject of neonatal survival coming out of the 2023 IMNHC was the release of a new Lancet series on Small Vulnerable Newborns (SVN) on the third day of the conference. This new four part series introduced a new framework which offered a new way of differentiating between small newborns. The three categories that vulnerable newborns can be placed in include preterm birth, small for gestational age (SGA) and low birth weight (LBW). Clearly outlining these three terms enables physicians to be on the lookout for and identify the conditions when they are present as soon as possible, preferably while fetuses are still intrauterine (inside of the mother’s uterus). It is best to diagnose conditions pertaining to neonatal health early so healthcare providers can work to the best of their ability to prevent neonatal mortality, stillbirths, and the onset of childhood diseases later in life.
This series coincides with the themes that were front and center at this year’s IMNHC. Ideas that came out of the conference include developing resilient healthcare systems which prioritize the health of mothers and newborns and promoting research in order to create a body of evidence on clinical interventions for neonatal health. Along the same vein, the Lancet’s publication portrays conditions falling under the SVN umbrella as global health and human rights concerns requiring action and investment in order to better preserve the health of newborn babies.
Re-Highlighting the prevalence of stillbirths when discussing neonatal health.
One other significant point that can be drawn from the 20203 IMNHC conference is the reminder that stillbirths are still a risk factor for neonatal mortality of considerable significance. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a stillbirth is defined as the death of a fetus measuring at a gestational age of 28 weeks, or in the case of some high income nations, just 20 weeks (1). Currently, the number of stillbirths is almost as high as the number of newborn deaths that occur, at 1.9 million stillbirths per year across the world. Align MNH, the host of this year’s IMNHC, has the 2023 progress report on Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth by the WHO, UNFPA, and UNICEF listed as a key resource in their library. This document describes goal 2 of the Every Newborn Action Plan: reducing stillbirths to 12 or fewer per 1000 births in all countries by 2030 and making a concerted effort to bridge equity gaps concerning stillbirth prevention.
Maternova’s commitment to neonatal health and survival.
Maternova is dedicated to working to ensure the health and survival of all newborns. We will be implementing the new terminology outlined in the Lancet regarding SVN and all categories that fall underneath this term. The consistent implementation of a diagnostic test allows for determination and differentiation of one of these three major neonatal health conditions and can allow for the provision of appropriate life saving measures. Maternova’s Preemie Test is an easy to use evidence-based device that allows for the assessment and categorization of SVN. Early detection through use of this tool can save numerous lives via neonatal treatment interventions. Maternova understands that it is crucial to measure gestational age throughout pregnancy beginning as early as possible. This allows for proper care for mother and baby as well as enables providers to monitor any concerns. While it will take a long time to reach global access to early ultrasounds for all women, it is an important goal to keep in mind as research and development moves forward.
The BiliDx is a novel system for diagnosing jaundice. The device uniquely meets the Target Product Profile (TPP) developed as part of the NEST 360 initiative in that it allows blood-based testing at the bedside. This initiative is part of an emerging global consensus in the Every Newborn Action Plan that countries need functional WHO level-2 inpatient units to care for "small and sick newborns."
Now as a next step, we ask what could be done to lower the costs of the implementation of the E-MOTIVE bundle? The most obvious answer is to consider displacing the tens of thousands of disposable plastic drapes with a purpose-built reusable device.
Fortunately one of the obstetricians involved in the E-MOTIVE study, Dr. Justus Hofmeyr, had been innovating around this very issue, designing a tray with wells that could fit under a woman’s buttocks, collect and accurately measure the. blood. This tray, theMaternaWellTraywas conceived as a device that could be sterilized and reused, and is manufactured in South Africa by Umoya.