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IJE OxfordLawn, J.E., et al., 'Kangaroo mother care' to prevent neonatal deaths due to preterm birth complications. Int J Epidemiol, 2010. 39 Suppl 1: p. i144-54.


Background ‘Kangaroo mother care’ (KMC) includes thermal care through continuous skin-to-skin contact, support for exclusive breastfeeding or other appropriate feeding, and early recognition/response to illness. Whilst increasingly accepted in both high- and low-income countries, a Cochrane review (2003) did not find evidence of KMC’s mortality benefit, and did not report neonatal-specific data.


Objectives The objectives of this study were to review the evidence, and estimate the effect of KMC on neonatal mortality due to complications of preterm birth.


Methods We conducted systematic reviews. Standardized abstraction tables were used and study quality assessed by adapted GRADE methodology. Meta-analyses were undertaken.


Results We identified 15 studies reporting mortality and/or morbidity outcomes including nine randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and six observational studies all from low- or middle-income settings. Except one, all were hospital-based and included only babies of birth-weight <2000 g (assumed preterm). The one community-based trial had missing birthweight data, as well as other limitations and was excluded. Neonatal-specific data were supplied by two authors. Meta-analysis of three RCTs commencing KMC in the first week of life showed a significant reduction in neonatal mortality [relative risk (RR) 0.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.29–0.82] compared with standard care. A meta-analysis of three observational studies also suggested significant mortality benefit (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.58–0.79). Five RCTs suggested significant reductions in serious morbidity for babies <2000 g (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.17–0.65).


Conclusion This is the first published meta-analysis showing that KMC substantially reduces neonatal mortality amongst preterm babies (birth weight <2000 g) in hospital, and is highly effective in reducing severe morbidity, particularly from infection. However, KMC remains unavailable at-scale in most low-income countries.

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Background In high-income countries, administration of antenatal steroids is standard care for women with anticipated preterm labour. However, although >1 million deaths due to preterm birth occur annually, antenatal steroids are not routine practice in low-income countries where most of these deaths occur.

Objectives To review the evidence for and estimate the effect on cause-specific neonatal mortality of administration of antenatal steroids to women with anticipated preterm labour, with additional analysis for the effect in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods We conducted systematic reviews using standardized abstraction forms. Quality of evidence was assessed using an adapted GRADE approach. Existing meta-analyses were reviewed for relevance to low/middle-income countries, and new meta-analysis was performed.

Results We identified 44 studies, including 18 randomised control trials (RCTs) (14 in high-income countries) in a Cochrane meta-analysis, which suggested that antenatal steroids decrease neonatal mortality among preterm infants (<36 weeks gestation) by 31% [relative risk (RR) = 0.69; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58–0.81]. Our new meta-analysis of four RCTs from middle-income countries suggests 53% mortality reduction (RR = 0.47; 95% CI 0.35–0.64) and 37% morbidity reduction (RR = 0.63; 95% CI 0.49–0.81). Observational study mortality data were consistent. The control group in these equivalent studies was routine care (ventilation and, in many cases, surfactant). In low-income countries, many preterm babies currently receive little or no medical care. It is plausible that antenatal steroids may be of even greater effect when tested in these settings.

Conclusions Based on high-grade evidence, antenatal steroid therapy is very effective in preventing neonatal mortality and morbidity, yet remains at low coverage in low/middle-income countries. If fully scaled up, this intervention could save up to 500 000 neonatal lives annually.

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