Born too soon in a resource-limited setting: A 10-year mixed methods review of a special care baby unit for refugees and migrants on the Myanmar-Thailand border

Ahmar Hashmi, Mu Chae Darakamon, Ko Ko Aung, Mu Mu, Prapatsorn Misa, Podjanee Jittamala, Cindy Chu, Aung Pyae Phyo, Claudia Turner, Francois Nosten, Rose McGready, Verena I. Carrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preterm birth is a major public health concern with the largest burden of morbidity and mortality falling within low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Materials and methods: This sequential explanatory mixed methods study was conducted in special care baby units (SCBUs) serving migrants and refugees along the Myanmar-Thailand border. It included a retrospective medical records review, qualitative interviews with mothers receiving care within SCBUs, and focus group discussions with health workers. Changes in neonatal mortality and four clinical outcomes were described. A mix of ethnographic phenomenology and implementation frameworks focused on cultural aspects, the lived experience of participants, and implementation outcomes related to SCBU care. Results: From 2008–2017, mortality was reduced by 68% and 53% in very (EGA 28–32 weeks) and moderate (EGA 33–36 weeks) preterm neonates, respectively. Median SCBU stay was longer in very compared to moderate preterm neonates: 35 (IQR 22, 48 days) vs. 10 days (IQR 5, 16). Duration of treatments was also longer in very preterm neonates: nasogastric feeding lasted 82% (IQR 74, 89) vs. 61% (IQR 40, 76) of the stay, and oxygen therapy was used a median of 14 (IQR 7, 27) vs. 2 (IQR 1, 6) days respectively. Nine interviews were conducted with mothers currently receiving care in the SCBU and four focus group discussions with a total of 27 local SCBU staff. Analysis corroborated quantitative analysis of newborn care services in this setting and incorporated pertinent implementation constructs including coverage, acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, and fidelity. Coverage, acceptability, and appropriateness were often overlapping outcomes of interest highlighting financial issues prior to or while admitted to the SCBU and social issues and support systems adversely impacting SCBU stays. Interview and FGD findings highlight the barriers in this resource-limited setting as they impact the feasibility and fidelity of providing evidence-based SCBU care that often required adaptation to fit the financial and environmental constraints imposed by this setting. Discussion: This study provides an in-depth look at the nature of providing preterm neonatal interventions in a SCBU for a vulnerable population in a resource-limited setting. These findings support implementation of basic evidence-based interventions for preterm and newborn care globally, particularly in LMICs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1144642
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - 2023


  • developing countries (DC)
  • evidence-based practice
  • neonatal care
  • newborn infant
  • premature birth
  • refugees
  • transients and migrants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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