Worldwide it is reported that 9% of all births are preterm (prior to 37 weeks gestation). However, it is believed that this rate is higher in Tanzania (estimates range from 13-17% of all births). At this time, Tanzanians born today are more likely to die from complications in the neonatal period (first 28 days of life) than any other cause (including HIV/aids, pneumonia, ischemic heart disease, and stroke). Yet, there are only 3 trained neonatologists in Tanzania and few neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC) is a full-service, urban hospital within northern Tanzania. ALMC is home to one of few NICUs within Tanzania. In addition to clinical care, this hospital aims to teach and train other Tanzanian providers how to care for small and sick infants. In the fall of 2019, I visited ALMC to provide both clinical care to infants in the NICU while also participating in training sessions for Tanzanian physicians by traveling to other national hospitals. In order to maximize the number of providers receiving education on essential neonatal care, ALMC will be hosting a training conference, "Tiny Feet, Big Steps" in March 2020 where I will serve as a teacher. Educational topics will include neonatal resuscitation, growth and nutrition, infection control, thermoregulation, and respiratory support--all essential knowledge and skills to establish a NICU in a resource limited setting.
This project is dedicated to furthering the education of Tanzanian physicians and nurses who care for hospitalized infants. We estimate training 100 local nurses and physicians from several hospitals throughout Tanzania (with a particular focus on the Northern Tanzanian region given the proximity to ALMC and lack of functional NICUs).
The learning opportunities provided by this project are expected to equip healthcare providers to establish a NICU and advance the care of neonates within their respective hospitals. By focusing on interactive workshops in a "train the trainer" fashion, providers will be able to learn valuable skills with an impact that will be multiplied as they share their new knowledge with others at their respective hospitals. Additionally, by working alongside the providers at ALMC, there will be ongoing opportunities to provide education and support at each hospital.
Over 160 physicians and nurses working in obstetric or pediatric wards among 50 hospitals from 5 different African countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Malawi) participated in the conference.