, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 – Expectant mothers will now be able to simultaneously track their health and that of the babies to reduce mortality rates, following the introduction of a combined new Child Health booklet.
Speaking during the launch of the new healthcare booklets on Friday, Medical Services Director Shahnaaz Sharif said they would replace the old generation medical cards that separately recorded maternal health statuses.
Dr Sharif added that the new booklets would be used to monitor the child’s physical and mental well being up until their fifth birthday and would also be used to link the health of the mother to that of her child.
“Previously what we were using were several cards. When a mother was pregnant she had her own card during antenatal visits; then when she went for her post natal visits she had another card and her child had its own. We have decided to make sure that everything is captured in one booklet so that there is a continuum of care which goes on up to five years,” he said.
He explained that the booklets which were already in use in Nyanza and Coast provinces would be offered free of charge to women when they made their first antenatal visit. Dr Sharif added that a new booklet would be issued for each subsequent pregnancy and also cautioned medical facilities against selling the booklets.
“This medical booklet is to be issued at all health facilities offering maternal and child services and they are not for sale. Women have a right to get them,” he said.
The Medical Services Director also noted that in the period 2003 to 2008 newborn mortality rates had reduced albeit minimally from 35 per 1,000 live births to 31 per 1,000 births. He said it was crucial to monitor children’s health as it would determine their well being in the future.
“Currently, newborn mortality contributes 60 percent of infant mortality in Kenya and it is important to remember that the first five years of a child’s life are most crucial for child development in terms of immunisation, growth monitoring, nutritional status, picking up disabilities and other development milestones,” he said.
Dr Sharif also said that 75 percent of new born deaths occurred in the first week of life which he attributed to the quality of antenatal care, delivery services and immediate new born care.
“This together with the fact that most of the deaths in children under five are due to common preventable and treatable illnesses, means that integration of services in inevitable. Therefore this booklet forms a linkage between pregnancy, delivery of the baby, immediate newborn care and continued care of both the mother and child,” he explained.
He added that the booklets would contain a birth notification number as well as the certificate of birth registration. It would also guide mothers on proper nutrition for their children and family planning services.
“These booklets will also be useful tools in the confirmation of immunisation statuses of children when they are about to start school and also for immigration purposes,” he said.
This transitional venture was borne out of a partnership between the government, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, United States Agency for International Development, Center for Disease Control and Micronutrient Initiative.
The government funded the transitional venture with over Sh1 million.