Malawian nurses leads the efforts to decrease neonatal hypothermia Featured

Malawi nurse leads effort to decrease neonate hypothermia

By Rebecca Frey | 05/19/2017

MCHNLA Africa project cuts hypothermia admissions by 40 percent in one year.

A leadership project initiated by a nurse in Malawi has significantly decreased the incidence of hypothermia in neonates. Edith Tewesa, a senior nursing officer at Ministry of Health Malawi, developed the project as one of 12 Mentees in the 2016-17 Maternal-Child Health Nurse Leadership Academy Africa (MCHNLA Africa). The Academy is presented by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) in partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

Ellen Chirwa, acting principal at University of Malawi, Kamuzu College of Nursing, is Tewesa’s Faculty Advisor. Chirwa speaks to the importance of the academy: "The leadership academy empowers nurse midwives with essential knowledge, skills, and behaviours for implementing quality improvement projects that contribute to saving lives of mothers and children.”

For her MCHNLA Africa leadership project, Tewesa worked with Chirwa and Mentor Esnath Kapito, a lecturer at the University of Malawi, Kamuzu College of Nursing, to design, implement, and manage a team leadership project that focuses on reducing neonatal hypothermia, a contributing cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries.

Tewesa’s project specifically focuses on neonates at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. Between January and February 2016, she observed that nearly half (47 percent) of neonates admitted to the neonatal unit had hypothermia. Due to inadequate drying, some were still wet when admitted to the unit. This, in addition to inappropriate warming practices, greatly contributed to hypothermia.

Tewesa discovered that, because receiving towels were not included in the delivery packs, the mother’s nylon sheets were often used, ineffectively, to dry babies after delivery. In addition, there were no hats for the babies, linens to keep mother and baby warm for skin-to-skin contact, or educational materials on the risks of and ways to prevent hypothermia.

To address these important needs, Tewesa secured resources from several sources:

  • Two receiving towels for each delivery pack (contributed by QECH)
  • Hats for the labour ward (from well-wishers who learned about the project)
  • Bedsheets for skin-to-skin care with stable babies for at least one hour after birth (from QECH)
  • Educational posters in Chichewa—Malawi’s national language—posted in all labour ward cubicles, the antenatal ward, and clinics to remind healthcare providers and empower mothers to protect babies from hypothermia (from the Paediatrics and Child Health Association and Fattan Offset Printers).