​​AKU neonatologists contribute to Pakistan guidelines for newborn care

Healthcare workers being trained across the country

Eight faculty members from Aga Khan University out of a total of 55 national and international neonatologists have contributed to the 352-page first National Guidelines for Small and Sick Newborn Care at Primary and Secondary Healthcare Facilities in Pakistan.

Associate Professor of Paediatrics Muhammad Sohail Salat led the effort from Sindh for the National Guidelines for Small and Sick Newborn Care at Primary and Secondary Healthcare Facilities in Pakistan​. Photo: Rahim Sajwani/AKU

Ten percent of neonatal deaths globally take place in Pakistan. The guidelines will be used to train primary and secondary healthcare workers, paediatricians and neonatologists in Pakistan with the goal of lowering these mortality rates.

The guidelines were the initiative of Pakistan's Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, and have been supported by the Pakistan Pediatric Association, its Neonatology Group, UNICEF, Pakistan and WHO, Pakistan.

Prof Sabina Durrani, Director General, Population Program Wing, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Pakistan has said that these guidelines are disseminated and followed in all primary and secondary level healthcare facilities in Pakistan which will propel the achievement of SDG 3.2. The high rate of preterm babies and slow decline in neonatal mortality is one of the key concerns towards achieving SDG.3.2. The major proportion of our neonatal mortality is from primary or secondary healthcare facilities.

From Aga Khan University these are the contributing authors:

  • Senior Instructor & Neonatologist Waqar Hussain Khawaja
  • Assistant Professor of Paediatrics Adnan Mirza
  • Assistant Professor of Paediatrics Ali Shabbir Hussain
  • Assistant Professor of Paediatrics Muhammad Hussain Shah
  • Assistant Professor of Paediatrics  Vinod Kumar
  • Associate Professor of Paediatrics Khalil Ahmad
  • Associate Professor of Paediatrics Muhammad Sohail Salat
  • Distinguished Professor Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

AKU's Dr Muhammad Sohail Salat led the effort from Sindh.

The manual provides national standards and protocols to guide clinicians, administrators and teams working across maternity and neonatal services. These guidelines will standardize the development of neonatal units at secondary level hospitals and quality management of small and sick newborns in them.

The chapters include guidance on setting up a neonatal unit at a secondary level healthcare facility. It specifies dress codes, effective handwashing in Neonatal Units, hands-on techniques of Neonatal Resuscitation and Neonatal Transport.

These guidelines will be updated every two to three years. Work started in May-June 2022 and the book was published by July 2023. Over 100 trainers have been trained so far (Nov 2023) with pre- and post-workshop testing. The three-day sessions are divided into covering Neonatal resuscitation, Essential newborn care, Prevention of infections, Neonatal transport, Oxygen therapy, NIV, nHFT, nCPAP, CMV, Approach to respiratory failure. Workshops on Non-Invasive Ventilation, Kangaroo Mother Care and Neonatal Resuscitation have been held.

The guidelines have been edited by Prof. Khalid N. Haque, Visiting Professor of Neonatal Medicine, University of Child Health Sciences, The Children's Hospital, Lahore, Former Professor and Reader in Neonatal Medicine, University of London, Consultant Neonatologist, Director of Research and Development, Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals Trust, London, UK.