Bridging gaps in neonatal care across Cyprus and Greece: ESCNH Ambassador Dr Vavouraki and Ms Pantelides meet with Cypriot Health Minister Dr Kanaris

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A guest article by Dr Eleni Vavouraki and Pani Pantelides

It was a trip to remember: Dr Eleni Vavouraki, President of the partner parent organisation Ilitominon and Ambassador for the European Standards of Care for Newborn Health (ESCNH), travelled to Cyprus for a short visit on the island. On 24 November 2023, Dr Vavouraki, together with Pani Pantelides, neonatal-paediatric physiotherapist, had the outstanding opportunity to meet with Dr Popi Kanaris, the Cypriot Minister of Health, to discuss forward-thinking policies in the field of newborn health.

Cyprus and Greece are two members of the European Union with long-lasting historical, political, diplomatic, financial, and social ties, which enable them to collaborate and develop simultaneously in various fields. Hence, they also share similar difficulties, challenges, and goals, particularly when it comes to neonatal healthcare. For instance, preterm birth rates in both countries are among the highest in the European Union, yet they have no statistical data to which the number of preterm births can be correlated and lack implementation of wide-ranging family-centred neurodevelopmental care protocols.

Additionally, the relatively small population of Cyprus, which constitutes less than 10% of Greece’s total population, presents a unique opportunity to pilot initiatives in a smaller setting. Following successful implementation in Cyprus, these initiatives can then be scaled for broader application, benefiting not only the island but also larger countries like Greece. This overarching goal motivated Dr Vavouraki and Ms Pantelides to arrange this meeting during the first Cyprus-Greece Training Conference for Parents and Health Professionals on “Prematurity and Life After the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit”. The conference was organised by Pani Pantelides’ Developmental Care Centre, under the auspices of the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) and with the support of the non-governmental volunteer organisation “Thermokoitida Agapis“, which provides support and empowers families affected by prematurity.

During a warm, friendly, and fruitful meeting, Minister Kanaris was briefed on the actions of both EFCNI and the ESCNH, which aim to address disparities in neonatal healthcare among the European Union member states. The meeting provided an opportunity for sharing perspectives and information on the current situation across the European Union. The discussion focused mainly on the necessity for national data collection regarding preterm births and the future health conditions of these infants since systematic structured data collection is often neither organised at obstetrical or neonatal units nor coordinated nationally. As it is noted in the ESCNH, effective reporting would reach all target groups, provide answers to a wide range of questions and help develop prevention strategies.

Minister Kanaris, Dr Vavouraki and Ms Pantelides agreed that a national guideline on infrastructure for data collection and analysis, data entry, and the use of (inter-) nationally agreed on datasets is the first and most significant step towards understanding and improving health outcomes in both Cyprus and Greece.

© Eleni Vavouraki