Using “Premature Baby Weeks” in Argentina to Establish Prematurity as a Health Problem and Encourage Community Demand for the Rights of Preterm Infants

Session: Innovations in Maternal and Newborn Health: Scaling up to Reach Every Mother and Every Newborn

Presenter: Zulma Ortiz, UNICEF

Background: Each year, 60,000 children in Argentina are born premature; these children make up almost half of all infants who die. Prematurity was not widely recognized as a priority problem prior to 2010, so UNICEF and the government implemented “Premature Baby Weeks” and “10 Preterm Baby Rights” relating to quality care before, during and after birth, breastfeeding, prevention of blindness, being with his/her family, social integration, and family access to information and participation in decision-making. These initiatives aimed to improve knowledge about the situation and related solutions that should be implemented to prevent and control adverse events. Each year, one of the 10 Rights is selected for social mobilisation and communication strategies to stimulate measurable behaviour and social changes.

Methodology: Cross-sectional studies of key informants in 150 participant institutions were conducted in 2010 and 2014 to measure changes, particularly relating to how well premature newborns’ rights were being respected.

Results: At baseline, 46% of hospitals allowed premature newborns to be with their families at all times this rose to almost 80% in 2014. Social mobilisation has also helped to bring stakeholders together to raise awareness of programmes that fulfill the rights of preterm babies. After five years, 420 health care institutions, in every province of the country, and 600 families are involved with dissemination of information of these rights. Educational activities bring together more than 3000 health care professionals, families, journalists, and others. More than 100,000 community members have been mobilized and millions have been reached with key messages on prematurity. In 2012 Argentina entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest gathering of people born prematurely.

Conclusion: “Premature Baby Weeks” and the “10 Preterm Baby Rights” have contributed to an increased understanding of prematurity as a priority health problem. These social mobilisation activities have created an enabling environment for change, from local to national levels.