Home Visiting for Newborns’ Good Health
The new pilot home visiting practice is effective in helping babies to grow up healthy
Zilola is a mother and dedicated teacher in a local school. She lives in Nookat, a small town in Osh Region, in the south of Kyrgyzstan, with her two children, her 5-year-old daughter Zubaidakhon, and Muhammad-Yusuf, her newborn baby. Her love towards children goes beyond her own and expands to her true passion, education: “I like working with children. The favourite part of the work for me is in children loving me as a teacher, I do my best to teach them”.
Focused on the development of her community, Zilola, while looking at Mohammad-Yusuf, describes how the new home visiting practice implemented as a pilot in Nookat has made a difference for new mothers:
“This has been a huge support to new mothers because after the first delivery women do not know much about the complexity and details of taking care of a baby”.
As part of the project “Strengthening Maternal and Child Healthcare Systems” for 2018-2021, funded by the Government of Japan, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic and optimized the home visiting practice for newborns and their mothers and modelled postnatal home visiting services in Suzak and Nookat Family Medicine Centres.
Unfortunately, 2000 newborn babies die every year in Kyrgyzstan, while the 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) indicated that only 28 per cent of newborns received postnatal care visits within two days of discharge from the maternity ward. This highlights the importance of timely interventions to ensure every baby has the best start in life.
However, since July of 2019, home visits by a family doctor and a nurse in the first 3 days after discharge from maternity hospitals covered 1,020 newborns, representing 96% of all live births in the two pilot facilities. Timely interventions in the postnatal period are key in reducing newborn mortality and identifying risks of developmental delays in newborns.
In the project, mothers learn how to identify 13 warning signs that indicate a need for their babies to be consulted by a doctor. This allows doctors to treat health issues before they impact babies’ development and maximizes their well-being. Raikhan Askarova, a doctor from Nookat who participates in the project, describes the direct impact of the intervention, “there were eight newborns in my practice with hepatitis symptoms and four of them were positive. Thanks to the new approach, we instantly reacted and took all measures to quickly help them. Among other aspects, home visiting allows us to check in with mothers and their newborns during the critical days after delivery. Mothers contact us if there are any health concerns and we can identify these health issues early on".
Having attended training on postnatal home visits, Adina Matyakubova, a family doctor in Suzak, enhanced her knowledge on identifying diseases and pathologies in babies. “I personally identified four cases of dysplasia in newborns and two cases of newborn jaundice thanks to the training. If neglected, they could have led to cerebral palsy or other disabilities.”
Being better informed about possible diseases and how to keep their babies safe, mothers and family members feel reassured as caregivers. For another resident of Nookat, Hurshida, mother to newborn daughter Farohat:
“Home visiting supports babies to grow up healthy. If the baby gets sick, mothers with this experience know what to do and it is especially good for the young mothers. For instance, I can now identify when my son has a headache and stomach-ache”.
The new pilot home visiting practice also encourages doctors and nurses to provide psychosocial support and make sure that newborns grow up in a safe and healthy environment. Doctor Adina Matyakubova expressed the shift she has seen in her work: “Now, I pay attention to a baby’s surroundings, I try to see whether a mother or other family members are under psychological pressure”. For Nurhan Imamova, a doctor in Nookat Family Centre, the change also affects the family of the baby, “I talk to family members in a way that would motivate them to act differently for the well-being of a baby”.
Zilola shares her views on how the holistic approach adopted for home visiting and training of medical personnel is having a positive impact on newborns, “I was really happy to receive such support from the doctors, they taught me valuable things that I didn’t know when my firstborn was born. This helps me to take proper care of my new baby. Doctors checked in on my son as if he was their son, they did it so thoroughly”.
UNICEF will continue to support the Ministry of Health to scale up this intervention across the country, based on the success of the pilot programme. Soon every newborn will benefit from this critical engagement so that every baby can survive and thrive.
About the project
In the framework of the project “Strengthening Maternal and Child Healthcare Systems” for 2018-2021, funded by the Government of Japan, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic and optimized the home visiting practice for the newborns and their mothers and modelled postnatal home visiting services in Suzak and Nookat FMCs. Through UNICEF’s support, the home visiting service was updated to include: 1) introduction of task shifting mechanism from family doctor to family nurse; 2) identification of a child at risk of developmental delay, abuse and neglect; 3) initiation of a family-oriented approach to address not only medical but also development and social needs.