Interventions to Improve Neonatal Health and Later Survival: An Overview of Systematic Reviews

Zohra S. Lassi, Philippa F. Middleton, Caroline Crowther, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Evidence-based interventions and strategies are needed to improve child survival in countries with a high burden of neonatal and child mortality. An overview of systematic reviews can focus implementation on the most effective ways to increase child survival. Methods: In this overview we included published Cochrane and other systematic reviews of experimental and observational studies on antenatal, childbirth, postnatal and child health interventions aiming to prevent perinatal/neonatal and child mortality using the WHO list of essential interventions. We assessed the methodological quality of the reviews using the AMSTAR criteria and assessed the quality of the outcomes using the GRADE approach. Based on the findings from GRADE criteria, interventions were summarized as effective, promising or ineffective. Findings: The overview identified 148 Cochrane and other systematic reviews on 61 reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health interventions. Of these, only 57 reviews reported mortality outcomes. Using the GRADE approach, antenatal corticosteroids for preventing neonatal respiratory distress syndrome in preterm infants; early initiation of breastfeeding; hygienic cord care; kangaroo care for preterm infants; provision and promotion of use of insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs) for children; and vitamin A supplementation for infants from six months of age, were identified as clearly effective interventions for reducing neonatal, infant or child mortality. Antenatal care, tetanus immunization in pregnancy, prophylactic antimalarials during pregnancy, induction of labour for prolonged pregnancy, case management of neonatal sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia, prophylactic and therapeutic use of surfactant, continuous positive airway pressure for neonatal resuscitation, case management of childhood malaria and pneumonia, vitamin A as part of treatment for measles associated pneumonia for children above 6. months, and home visits across the continuum of care, were identified as promising interventions for reducing neonatal, infant, child or perinatal mortality. Interpretation: Comprehensive adoption of the above six effective and 11 promising interventions can improve neonatal and child survival around the world. Choice of intervention and degree of implementation currently depends on resources available and policies in individual countries and geographical settings. Funding: This review was part of doctoral thesis which was funded by University of Adelaide, Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1000
Number of pages16
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Child mortality
  • Infant mortality
  • Neonatal mortality
  • Perinatal mortality
  • Stillbirths
  • Survival


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