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U.S. Groups Help Improve Health of Mothers, Babies
November 8, 2011

Mothers in Kenya had healthy babies after they and their birth attendants received training.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
08 November 2011


Companies and nonprofits have joined the U.S. Agency for International Development in efforts to improve mother and infant health.

In October, USAID gave its 2011 Global Development Alliance Excellence Award to a partnership of organizations that want to reduce newborn mortality by expanding birth attendants’ access to high-quality, affordable, newborn-resuscitation training materials and devices.

The partnership, called Helping Babies Breathe, is a joint effort of Laerdal Medical Corporation, which makes health care products, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the nonprofits Save the Children and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Since Helping Babies Breathe was launched in June 2010, the organizations have mobilized $13.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions, introduced Helping Babies Breathe in 27 countries and trained 18,000 birth attendants in resuscitation. Using a dry towel, suction bulb and mask, an attendant can help a baby with his or her first breaths.

Experts predict that training attendants to perform resuscitation on newborns could reduce deaths from birth asphyxia by about 30 percent.

“The program is focused on the essential steps for helping babies breathe and uses effective educational methods,” said Laerdal Medical’s chief executive, Tore Laerdal, in a USAID press release.


Also in October, USAID said it will work with Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a global manufacturer of health and hygiene products, to improve maternal and child health in the Andean region, starting in Colombia and Ecuador.

The partnership will link the U.S. government’s Global Health and Feed the Future initiatives to Kimberly-Clark’s existing programs, which already reach thousands of new and expecting mothers in poor communities.

The Andean region’s maternal mortality rate is nearly 10 times higher than the average in more developed countries, and the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 is nearly four times higher, according to USAID. By deploying the company’s Plan Hospitales marketing campaign, USAID and Kimberly-Clark expect to build connections with nearly 650,000 low-income women to help ensure healthy pregnancies and births.

“This partnership brings together USAID’s health expertise with Kimberly-Clark’s marketing know-how,” said Mark Feierstein, USAID assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “By joining forces, we pool our resources and harness our strengths to improve the health of poor women and babies.”