120 Health Workers Coached on Early Essential Newborn Care

Around 120 health workers, including doctors, nurses and health assistants, from all 20 districts in Bhutan have been coached in Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC). The Early Essential Newborn Care coaching is a hands-on, evidence-based protocol to essential newborn care, focusing on the first hours and days of life. The coaching have taken place in four batches, in Thimphu, Mongar and Gelephu in February and March of 2017. Bhutan is the first country in the region to make use of the EENC methodology. The sessions were organized by the Ministry of Health, with technical and financial support from WHO and UNICEF.

Experts from the WHO Regional Office came to Bhutan in mid-February to introduce the course. They conducted a national training of trainers involving sixteen healthcare providers of diverse backgrounds, including specialists, general doctors and nurses, at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH). This was followed by cascading the same training to healthcare providers by the newly trained national trainers in the Western, Central and Eastern regions until end of March. The health workers trained were from those hospitals which together cover over 90% of institutional deliveries in the country. A second round of coaching will take place before the end of 2017 in the country’s three referral hospitals, followed by an evaluation of changes in practice in these institutions.

The Minister of Health, Tandin Wangchuk said, “despite the huge leap that Bhutan has made in reducing overall child mortality rates over the past decades, newborns remain one of the most vulnerable groups that need urgent attention. That is why we developed the Bhutan Newborn Action Plan in 2016. We know from other countries that a lot of progress can be made with relatively simple interventions that work well in big hospitals as well as in remote areas. The Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) course is an important first step, to make sure everyone gets the basics completely right on how to care for newborn babies in the best possible way.”

According to the World Health Statistics 2016, Bhutan currently has an Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) of 32.9 per 1,000 live births, compared with the global average of 42.5 per 1,000 live births. The Newborn Mortality Rate (deaths in the first 28 days of life) is currently around 18 per 1,000 live births, accounting for more than half of the total U5MR. This is roughly the same as the global average of 19 per 1,000 live births.

More information on the Early Essential Newborn Care coaching, and the complete materials are available online through WHO’s “First Embrace” website below.