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About Sickkids
About SickKids

June 7, 2013

AMREF-SickKids Neonatal Care Management Training in Tanzania

Dr. Kyong-Soon Lee assists two trainees during a resuscitation workshop within the AMREF-SickKids Neonatal Care Management course
Dr. Kyong-Soon Lee assists two trainees during a resuscitation workshop within the AMREF-SickKids Neonatal Care Management course

Hope. That’s what registered nurse Judy Hawes remembers most about her colleagues in rural Tanzania. “They all had hope for a better tomorrow. They also recognized that in order to improve the health of women and their children, education and team work was necessary,” she says.

Judy, a nurse practitioner in the neonatal intensive care unit at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto and her colleague Dr. Kyong-Soon Lee, a neonatologist in the same unit, recently spent two weeks in northern Tanzania delivering a train-the-trainer course on newborn care. The training was delivered to a number of Physicians, Assistant Medical Officers and Nurses at Shinyanga Regional Hospital to enhance knowledge and skills in the care of newborns. Judy and Kyong-Soon collaboratively developed the course curriculum based on priorities identified by Tanzanian partners and stakeholders affiliated with the initiative.

The training was part of a partnership between the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), the leading African health organization, and the SickKids’ Global Child Health program to combat the high neonatal mortality rate in the region. It is part of AMREF’s Tubadilike (Let’s Change) Project, started in 2011, which is focused on significantly increasing access to health care for mothers and their newborns.

In Tanzania, 50 children under the age of one die for every 1,000 live births. In Canada, the rate is five. Lack of access to medical care is one of the biggest challenges facing mothers and newborns in the Shinyanga region, where only 39 per cent of deliveries are assisted by a trained health professional. Nationally, 51 per cent of mothers in Tanzania give birth with trained medical assistance. The area also has a critical shortage of health care workers, having only 50 per cent of the skilled health professionals that it requires.

Both Judy and Kyong-Soon are accustomed to carrying out their work at a hospital equipped with some of the latest medical technology. In Shinyanga, a lack of basic equipment, beds and health workers proved to be a significant challenge. “We saw right away that limited hand washing facilities and patient overcrowding would create challenges for the health workers there to carry out best practices,” says Kyong-Soon.  

The challenges didn’t deter the women or the trainees. After all, as Judy says, their goal in being there was to train health care workers on how to save the lives of newborns by consistently using simple practices that don’t depend on expensive equipment or technology. “We really focused on how the resources available could be used effectively to save lives.”

During the two–week course, the eight trainees attended lectures on key areas of survival for newborns, including: thermoregulation, infection prevention, and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Each morning started with a Jeopardy-style game, quizzing the trainees on what they had learned the day before. Interactive lessons focused on case presentations, physical examinations, and newborn resuscitation. The students were also given group assignments to identify areas for practice improvement, such as keeping newborns warm and coming up with solutions based on the resources available to them.

For both Judy and Kyong-Soon, the experience has strengthened their commitment to improving health care for mothers and their babies regardless of where they live. “Every day that I saw another newborn and new mother, I was inspired and even more committed to the training we were providing. The challenges are big but through small, well-organized and thoughtful processes, substantial gains can be achieved,” says Judy.

Kyong-Soon agrees.