Posted by: davidjolson | 07/18/2010

“Helping Babies Breathe”: A crucial step towards MDG 4

Note: This is a guest blog written by Louisa Stuewe, an intern in the Policy Communications Department at the Global Health Council.

WASHINGTON, DC — “Helping Babies Breathe” could change the fate of the estimated 4 million newborn deaths every year. Optimism descended on the 37th Annual International Conference on Global Health in June when 100 international advocates from all over the world came together for a new initiative launched by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). On behalf of the Global Health Council, I was part of the group and learned from dedicated and experienced pediatricians who, by means of a realistic simulation, demonstrated how to save a newborn’s life in the crucial “golden minute.”

Helping Babies Breathe Kit“Helping Babies Breathe” is an initiative which seeks to teach essential skills to birth attendants in developing countries. It is easy, cost-efficient and effective. I learned that when a baby is born and not breathing, simple techniques like rubbing the baby dry, keeping the baby warm, and suctioning the baby’s mouth may be all that is needed to save its life. A baby begins to breathe on its own after just a few breaths from a simple ventilation device.

Because the initiative is tailored for low-income environments, it could take us a step closer to achieving MDG 4 to reduce child mortality by two thirds before 2015. Even though progress has been made in terms of diarrheal diseases, half of newborn deaths occur during delivery or within the next day, mainly due to inadequacies in the breathing process. By making the devices (newborn simulators, ventilation masks and suction bulbs) available to developing countries, “Helping Babies Breathe” could reach some of the babies requiring help to breathe immediately after birth, nearly 10 million annually.

Helping Babies Breathe DemoIt is now in the hands of these dedicated pediatricians to bring the new initiative to their home countries, spread the message and exert pressure so that it is included in their national health agendas. I am optimistic that these pediatricians, who sense life after its first cry, will be successful in doing so.

David Brown also wrote about the campaign in this article in the Washington Post.

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