The Lancet is known for being a champion of global health and for its contribution to publishing the most authoritative global health science. At its core The Lancet believes in a world where healthcare is equitable and just and where every individual has the right to the highest attainable standard of care. But what does this admirable principle mean in practice? How does The Lancet influence health agendas and global policies? How does it make a difference?
A recent example of this commitment in action was the publication of The Lancet’s Every Newborn Series, a series that relies on research from around the world to potentially save the lives of millions of mothers and their babies.
5.5 million babies each year die without ever receiving a birth or death certificate. 2.9 million of these babies die within their first month of life—1 million on their birthday—and 2.6 million are stillborn. Almost all of these deaths are from preventable causes.
“The fact that they don’t have those birth or death certificates is not just a failing in data or in systems,” said Professor Joy Lawn, Director of the MARCH Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “It suggests that the world doesn’t count them, and the world isn’t acting to change that.”
The publication of The Lancet’s Every Newborn Series aims to change this situation. Timed to coincide with the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 20th the Series, published online first, provides the latest evidence to save newborn lives and improve neonatal health.
The Lancet coordinated the work of 55 global health experts, researchers, and policymakers for this Series of papers. Led by Professor Lawn and Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, the Founding Chair of the Division of Women and Child Health at the Aga Kahn University in Pakistan, these contributions came from 28 institutions in 18 countries, making it a truly worldwide effort.
The extensive research from the Series resulted in the creation of the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) by WHO and UNICEF, which could prevent the death of 3 million mothers and babies by the year 2025. The plan was endorsed by this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva, and both the Series and action plan have inspired extensive media coverage from global news sources and significant social media engagement around the world.
Series Editor Udani Samarasekera said, “The team here at The Lancet worked with multiple partners, from universities and UN agencies to child health charities in order to produce the six commentaries and five papers. It was a challenging project with tight deadlines, but the endorsement of the action plan on the basis of the evidence in the Series was a great result.”
Along with these individual contributors, foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and USAID helped fund this undertaking.
Melinda Gates herself wrote about the Series, “Saving newborns is a tender-hearted act of love that also makes hard-headed business sense. The call to action in the Series not only provides the evidence base for increasing coverage of existing interventions, but also provides a policy roadmap for accomplishing this goal…When the world coalesces around a clear set of goals, it can rise to challenges previously thought insurmountable.”
The Lancet is proud of the Every Newborn Series and continues to work on a daily basis with the leaders in the field of global health on a schedule of commissions that allow The Lancet and Elsevier to play an important part in our world of today and of tomorrow.