Plateaued rate of decline in neonatal mortality rate is one of the major obstacles in achieving Millennium Development Goal 4 especially in developing countries. Even in India, nationwide interventions targeting safe mother and newborn care have not yielded the desired impact, indicating the necessity to combat neonatal mortality rate at population specific level. The objective of this study is to identify the newborn care practices and beliefs, analyze their harmful or beneficial characteristics, describe the deviations from the essential newborn care practices during hospital/home delivery, explain barriers to care seeking and identify areas of potential resistance for behavior change; and utilize study findings to tailor-make cost-effective essential newborn care package. The study uses qualitative data from in-depth interview of mothers who had experienced neonatal death and key-informant interviews with healthcare personnel and birth attendants. 33 cases were randomly selected from the registered neonatal deaths across Bharuch district of Gujarat, India. Key finding of this study is less prevalent practice of essential newborn care among all cases irrespective of place of delivery and the health-care personnel facilitating delivery. Habitual traditional/tribal newborn care methods challenge the practice of prescribed essential newborn care. Clustering of deaths in few households added significantly to the existing burden of neonatal deaths, attributed to superstition “Ratewa” by tribal. Study has concluded that the introduction and implementation of essential newborn care at hospital and community/ household level are the need of the hour. Quality home based neonatal care through cost effective interventions is deemed necessary where accessing institutional care is not possible in the immediate term. Community health workers can contribute to the eradication of harmful newborn care practices and the sustenance of essential practices through community education and behavior change communication.
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