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Simple program shown to reduce infant mortality in African country

An inexpensive, instructional program that taught newborn care skills to midwives in Zambia, one of the world's poorest countries, resulted in a substantial reduction in the death rate of infants there. As detailed in a recent paper in the journal Pediatrics, midwife training led to a drop in first-week infant mortality from 11.5 for every 1,000 births to 6.8 per 1,000 births. The intervention cost $208 per life saved.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Yesterday Linda Wright, scientific director of the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research, commented on the significance of the findings in an NIH release:

Public health officials and policy makers sometimes assume that only expensive, high tech-care can reduce infant mortality... The results of this study show that infant deaths can be prevented in resource-poor countries when only a modest investment is possible.

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