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Johns Hopkins International Center for Maternal and Newborn Health Receives Grant to Improve Newborn Outcomes in Bangladesh

The International Center for Maternal and Newborn Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization to conduct a trial of two doses of antenatal corticosteroids for women with a high risk of preterm birth to improve newborn outcomes. The ACTION-III Trial grant is a multi-country trial funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the WHO to improve newborn health outcomes in hospitals in low-resource settings. Abdullah Baqui, DrPH ’90, MPH ’85, professor in the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School, is the principal investigator for the Bangladesh site of the trial.

The aim of ACTION-III is to assess the benefits and possible harms of two regimens of antenatal corticosteroids when given to pregnant women in the late preterm period—between 34 to 36 weeks—when they are at risk of preterm birth. The three-arm trial will compare the efficacy of a low-dose antenatal steroid with a standard dose for women at risk of imminent preterm birth and will be compared with a placebo arm. The steroids tested in the trial will be dexamethasone and betamethasone. The ACTION-III trial is a follow up on prior ACTION trials also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the WHO, which found that dexamethasone can improve survival of premature babies when given to pregnant women at risk of early preterm birth in low-resource settings.

ACTION-III will be conducted in 24 hospitals in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The ACTION-III Trial launched in July 2021 and will run through June 2024. In addition to Baqui, other Bloomberg School faculty on the Bangladesh project site include Rasheda Khanam, PhD, MPH, and Diwakar Mohan, MD, PhD, in the Department of International Health.