Thailand documents success factors for reducing neonatal mortality

Thailand has successfully lowered its newborn mortality rate from 18 per 1000 live births  in 1990 to  6 per 1000 live births in 2012. In many other Asian countries, progress has been considerably slower. Because of this, Thailand has been identified as a subject for a case study (along Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Asia) to identify the accelerators and the facilitating factors of this improvement. The case study should provide information about effective interventions and actions that can be used to assist other countries in the region to achieve similar success.

Thailand’s experience of improving neonatal survival can be very useful for other countries aspiring to reduce preventable newborn deaths. The critical investment in primary health care, focus on the rural and the poor, high political commitment for family planning and resulting fertility decline, universal health care, improved access to skilled attendance at birth and ensuring interventions to prevent and manage newborn complications  are seen as key steps to reduce the newborn mortality. The study will determine whether these or other factors drove the improvements. Robert Gass  from UNICEF Thailand Country office, highlighted the key factors helping Thailand fulfill this achievement.

Robert Gass, UNICEF Thailand

Pre-term births, complications during the process of labour and neonatal infections are the three main causes of preventable newborn deaths, across the world. Over two-thirds of these babies can be saved without heavy investments in high-tech newborn care units. Despite major advances in the evidence base for newborn survival, neonatal mortality is reducing at half the speed of maternal mortality and one third slower than child deaths after the first month of life. Neonatal deaths now account for 43% of under-five deaths. Global Newborn Action Plan is being drafted to provide countries and the international community with a roadmap and joint action platform for the reduction of preventable newborn mortality.


A national consultation in Thailand


Addressing newborn survival requires clear consensus on evidence, strategies and actions by a broad community of partners. A series of country consultations have been planned to provide concrete background information for the development of strategies and key messages for this action plan.  The bottlenecks, challenges and solutions to scale up of maternal and newborn health programmes will be examined. In addition, in countries that have made great progress in reducing newborn mortality over the past two decades, the accelerators influencing change will be examined.

A national consultation in this regard was convened in late September in Bangkok, Thailand for providing inputs to the development of a Global Newborn Action Plan and developing the case study.

Thailand has shown dramatic progress for newborn survival and one of the highest annual rates of reduction in  mortality. UNICEF Thailand and WHO are collaborating to document the factors of this success which can inform framing the priorities for Global Newborn Action Plan. See the remarks from Dr. Nima Asgari, Deputy Representative from WHO Thailand.

Dr. Nima Asgari, WHO Thailand

A group of ministry of health officials, representatives of professional associations, university hospitals and research universities will be working together to develop a “Thailand Country Case Study” to capture the nuances and factors for success. Sharing best practices and promoting south to south cooperation are key priorities for UNICEF  regional office for East Asia and the Pacific. This document will help countries in Asia and across the world to learn “how” Thailand made certain strategic choices and provided high level political commitment and sustained resources in this regard. In East Asia and the Pacific,  UNICEF   is also supporting the process of country consultations to identify bottlenecks and documenting best practices in China, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The author
Nabila Zaka, Maternal and Child Health Specialist, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific Regional Office

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