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Current perspectives and practices of newborn vitamin K administration in low and middle income countries

Authors Coffey PS, Gerth-Guyette E

Received 20 October 2017

Accepted for publication 8 December 2017

Published 5 April 2018 Volume 2018:8 Pages 45—51


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Robert Schelonka

Patricia S Coffey, Emily Gerth-Guyette

PATH, Seattle, WA, USA

Background: Vitamin K prophylaxis can prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), and current global recommendations support universal prophylactic use in newborns. Data about access to and use of vitamin K in low and middle income countries (LMIC) are scarce. To address this gap, we explored current perspectives and practices of newborn vitamin K administration in LMIC in order to better understand the barriers to more widespread coverage of this lifesaving preventative treatment.
Methods: We conducted an online survey of stakeholders involved in newborn health. We sent the survey via e-mail to 109 individuals who were based primarily in LMIC and 23 responses were received, resulting in a response rate of 21%. Respondents were generally health or development professionals from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Results: Incidence rates at the country level were mostly unknown or not supported by adequate data. Many respondents (17/23) indicated that vitamin K prophylaxis is included in their national newborn care guidelines and policies, while 12 respondents indicated that administration at birth was widely practiced. Around half of respondents reported that health workers were trained in the diagnosis and treatment of VKDB. The most frequently cited barriers to more widespread vitamin K prophylaxis were (in rank order) high rates of home birth (which preclude injections that must be given by skilled health workers), lack of access to and availability of vitamin K, perception that vitamin K prophylactic treatment is not a priority among health workers, lack of vitamin K formulations appropriate for infants, cultural practices suggesting that injection at birth is not acceptable to parents, and vitamin K not being included in national guidelines and policies. There was no consensus as to the ideal formulation, respondents preferring both the current intramuscular (IM) injection and oral formulation. Reported product attributes of IM and oral formulations are summarized.
Conclusion: Prophylactic administration of vitamin K to newborns is relatively well integrated into policy at the global and country levels, but its practice is underutilized. Barriers to use are access, supply chain logistics, provider attitudes, and restrictions on the use of injections by providers at the community level. Technology innovation may offer some promise to mitigate these barriers, although advocacy and health system strengthening might be more likely to yield improved coverage. Further investigation using in-depth bottleneck analysis at the country level could help identify specific health system improvements.

Keywords: newborn, vitamin K, prophylaxis, LMIC

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