Research funding for newborn health and stillbirths, 2011–20: a systematic analysis of levels and trends

Priyesh Agravat, Eva M. Loucaides, Meghan Bruce Kumar, Anna Howells, Alexandra Molina García, Ismail Sebina, Núria Balanza, Elizabeth J.A. Fitchett*, Joy E. Lawn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Worldwide, an estimated 4·4 million newborn deaths and stillbirths occurred in 2020, and 98% of these deaths occurred in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). We aimed to analyse new research grants for newborns and stillbirth awarded by major funders in 2019–20, and all research funding allocated to LMIC-based institutions in 2011–20. 

Methods: For this systematic analysis, we searched Dimensions, the world's largest research funding database, for grants relevant to neonatal and stillbirth research. Included grants were categorised by in-depth content analysis, with descriptive quantitative analyses by funder and recipient countries, research pipeline, topic, and year. 

Findings: Globally, in 2019–20, major funders awarded a mean annual total of US$577·1 million per year for newborn and stillbirth research (mean total of 550 grants per year). $166·3 million (28·8%) of $577·1 million was directed to small and vulnerable newborn research, but only $8·4 million (1·5%) was directed to stillbirth research. The majority of funding, $537·0 million (93·0%), was allocated to organisations based in high-income countries. Between 2011 and 2020, LMIC-based recipients were named on 1985 grants from all funders worth $486·7 million, of which $73·1 million (15·0%) was allocated to small and vulnerable newborn research and $12·0 million (2·5%) was allocated to stillbirth research. Most LMIC funding supported preclinical or observational studies ($236·8 million [48·7%] of $486·7 million), with implementation research receiving only $13·9 million (2·9%). 

Interpretation: Although investment in research related to neonatal health and stillbirths has increased between 2011 and 2020, there are marked disparities in distribution geographically, between major causes of mortality, and among research pipeline types. Stillbirth research received minimal funding in both high-income countries and LMICs, despite a similar number of deaths compared with neonates. Direct investment in LMIC-led research, especially for implementation research, could accelerate the slow global progress on stillbirth prevention and newborn survival.

 Funding: None. 

Translations: For the French, German and Spanish translations of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1794-e1804
Number of pages11
JournalThe Lancet Global Health
Issue number11
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes

Cite this