Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Service readiness tools are important for assessing hospital capacity to provide quality small and sick newborn care (SSNC). Lack of summary scoring approaches for SSNC service readiness means we are unable to track national targets such as the Every Newborn Action Plan targets.

Methods: A health facility assessment (HFA) tool was co-designed by Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360) and UNICEF with four African governments. Data were collected in 68 NEST360-implementing neonatal units in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Tanzania (September 2019-March 2021). Two summary scoring approaches were developed: a) standards-based, including items for SSNC service readiness by health system building block (HSBB), and scored on availability and functionality, and b) level-2+, scoring items on readiness to provide WHO level-2+clin‑ ical interventions. For each scoring approach, scores were aggregated and summarised as a percentage and equally weighted to obtain an overall score by hospital, HSBB, and clinical intervention.

Results: Of 1508 HFA items, 1043 (69%) were included in standards-based and 309 (20%) in level-2+scoring. Sixtyeight neonatal units across four countries had median standards-based scores of 51% [IQR 48–57%] at baseline, with variation by country: 62% [IQR 59–66%] in Kenya, 49% [IQR 46–51%] in Malawi, 50% [IQR 42–58%] in Nigeria, and 55% [IQR 53–62%] in Tanzania. The lowest scoring was family-centred care [27%, IQR 18–40%] with governance highest scoring [76%, IQR 71–82%]. For level-2+scores, the overall median score was 41% [IQR 35–51%] with vari‑ ation by country: 50% [IQR 44–53%] in Kenya, 41% [IQR 35–50%] in Malawi, 33% [IQR 27–37%] in Nigeria, and 41% [IQR 32–52%] in Tanzania. Readiness to provide antibiotics by culture report was the highest-scoring interven‑ tion [58%, IQR 50–75%] and neonatal encephalopathy management was the lowest-scoring [21%, IQR 8–42%]. In both methods, overall scores were low (<50%) for 27 neonatal units in standards-based scoring and 48 neonatal units in level-2+scoring. No neonatal unit achieved high scores of>75%.

Discussion: Two scoring approaches reveal gaps in SSNC readiness with no neonatal units achieving high scores (>75%). Government-led quality improvement teams can use these summary scores to identify areas for health sys‑ tems change. Future analyses could determine which items are most directly linked with quality SSNC and newborn outcomes.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Pediatrics


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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