Background: Neonatal mortality accounts for a high proportion of deaths in children under the age of 5 years in Bangladesh. Therefore the project for advancing the health of newborns and mothers (Projahnmo) implemented a community-based intervention package through government and non-government organisation infrastructures to reduce neonatal mortality.
Methods: In Sylhet district, 24 clusters (with a population of about 20 000 each) were randomly assigned in equal numbers to one of two intervention arms or to the comparison arm. Because of the study design, masking was not feasible. All married women of reproductive age (15-49 years) were eligible to participate. In the home-care arm, female community health workers (one per 4000 population) identified pregnant women, made two antenatal home visits to promote birth and newborn-care preparedness, made postnatal home visits to assess newborns on the first, third, and seventh days of birth, and referred or treated sick neonates. In the community-care arm, birth and newborn-care preparedness and careseeking from qualified providers were promoted solely through group sessions held by female and male community mobilisers. The primary outcome was reduction in neonatal mortality. Analysis was by intention to treat. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number 00198705.
Findings: The number of clusters per arm was eight. The number of participants was 36059, 40159, and 37598 in the home-care, community-care, and comparison arms, respectively, with 14 769, 16 325, and 15 350 livebirths, respectively. In the last 6 months of the 30-month intervention, neonatal mortality rates were 29.2 per 1000, 45.2 per 1000, and 43.5 per 1000 in the home-care, community-care, and comparison arms, respectively. Neonatal mortality was reduced in the home-care arm by 34% (adjusted relative risk 0.66; 95% CI 0.47-0.93) during the last 6 months versus that in the comparison arm. No mortality reduction was noted in the community-care arm (0.95; 0.69-1.31).
Interpretation: A home-care strategy to promote an integrated package of preventive and curative newborn care is effective in reducing neonatal mortality in communities with a weak health system, low health-care use, and high neonatal mortality.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00198705.