Günther Fink, a health economist with expertise in child health and development, thinks that all countries should aim to reduce neonatal mortality by 70 percent by the year 2030. In a recent paper for the Copenhagen Consensus, he argues that this goal should be part of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, which will be set in September 2015.

Why do you think it’s critical that the world focus on reducing neonatal mortality?

It is depressing that about 2.8 million babies continue to die in the first month of their lives every year. Those deaths account for more than 40 percent of total mortality of children under age five globally, and most of those deaths — 70 percent or 80 percent — can be prevented relatively easily. The large majority of these deaths are due to three main causes: prematurity, interpartum-related complications, and sepsis. There is no reason why so many babies have to die. To me, saving neonatal lives is a more tangible and more real objective than more general things like ending poverty — which we also want to do and we also agree on — because this objective is more concrete and more achievable than many other objectives currently being considered for the new Sustainable Development Goals.

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