Handwashing May Lower Neonatal Mortality in Nepal

July 9, 2008

Compared to not washing their hands, maternal and birth attendant handwashing prior to handling neonates significantly lowers neonatal death, according to an article published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to not washing their hands, maternal and birth attendant handwashing prior to handling neonates significantly lowers neonatal death, according to an article published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Victor Rhee, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues enrolled 23,662 newborns into an observational cohort study and collected self-reported handwashing data from mothers at days 1 and 14 of life in order to determine the effect of handwashing on neonatal mortality.

In analyses adjusted for potential confounders, exposure to both neonatal and maternal handwashing lowered neonatal mortality by 41 percent, the researchers report. Birth attendant handwashing lowered mortality by 19 percent compared to deliveries where the mother reported no handwashing and self-reported maternal handwashing is associated with a 44 percent decline in neonatal mortality, the report indicates.

"In developing countries, where most births take place at home, the concept of washing with soap before delivery to protect against infection is not well understood," the authors write. "New and existing approaches to handwashing promotion need to be further evaluated."

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