Project Lead(s): Shaun Morris
The first month of life is a critical period in brain growth and development that can be affected in many ways, including from hypothermia and infection.
Reducing the number of these impediments to young brain growth is the aim of a toolkit created by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids for use initially by mothers in Kenya.
Contents of the tool kit (which costs less than $5) include: a clean delivery kit to minimize infection at time of delivery; a sterilizing gel that, applied to the umbilical stump, reduces certain severe infections by 75% and mortality from all causes by 25 to 40%; an emollient to promote skin integrity, helping to reduce infection and prevent hypothermia (and shown to reduce mortality in hospitalized preterm infants); a handheld scale to spot early warnings signaled by an infant’s weight, and a ThermoSpot to identify hypothermia and fever; a mylar infant sleeve and reusable heating device to treat hypothermia; information on infant stimulation, involving play and communication strategies proven beneficial to neurodevelopment in low birth weight newborns.
If any danger signals are found, community health workers will refer cases to appropriate health care.
“We believe that improved neurodevelopment outcomes at age 1 will translate into sustainable longer term gains in academic performance, employment, productivity, and ultimately more human capital,” says project leader Dr. Shaun Morris of the Hospital for Sick Kids.
Project collaborators include the Aga Khan University, Kenya.