Deaths to babies in their first 28 days of life now account for more than 40% of global under-5 child mortality. High neonatal mortality poses a significant barrier to achieving the child survival Millennium Development Goal. Surmounting the problem requires national-level political commitment, yet only a few nation-states have prioritised this issue. We compare Bolivia, Malawi and Nepal, three low-income countries with high neonatal mortality, with a view to understanding why countries prioritise or neglect the issue. The three have had markedly different trajectories since 2000: attention grew steadily in Nepal, stagnated then grew in Malawi and grew then stagnated in Bolivia. The comparison suggests three implications for proponents seeking to advance attention to neglected health issues in low-income countries: the value of (1) advancing solutions with demonstrated efficacy in low-resource settings, (2) building on existing and emerging national priorities and (3) developing a strong network of domestic and international allies. Such actions help policy communities to weather political storms and take advantage of policy windows.
Keywords: Bolivia; Malawi; Nepal; health policy; neonatal mortality.