newborn health

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman

Impact. Scale. Sustainability. As public health professionals, we are dedicated to high-impact and high-coverage interventions that significantly improve the health of large human populations. We also hope that the benefits become part of the timeless fabric of their families, communities, and the health system.

This triple expectation—impact, scale, and sustainability—has accompanied global health for decades and especially during the last  generation. In 1990, Dr. Thomas Bossert reported that, among five US government-funded health programs in Africa and Central America, a project’s capacity to show results was the most important factor to ensure the sustainability of its benefits.

 {Photo credit: DRC-IHP/MSH.}A healthy, exclusively breastfed, five-month old Ataadji and mom, Thérèse. In two months, his weight increased from six to sixteen pounds.Photo credit: DRC-IHP/MSH.

This post is part of the  blog and event series on proven, impactful practices that are advancing maternal, newborn, and child survival. The series is sponsored by MSH, Jhpiego, and Save the Children.

At three months old, Thérèse’s baby boy Ataadji was malnourished and unhealthy, weighing in at only six pounds. Within two months, Ataadji had transformed into a thriving, healthy baby boy and his weight had nearly tripled. The keys to this success? An Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support group and exclusive breastfeeding.

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}Several MSH delegates gather at the Global MNH conference.Photo credit: MSH staff

The Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference held last week in Mexico City was an action-packed three days of presentations and conversations about state-of-the-art strategies to improve maternal and newborn health. Throughout it all, the following key themes stood out as critical for the post-2015 development agenda, particularly in the context of pursuing universal health coverage (UHC).

 {Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH}Elene O. and her baby, Omedji village, Benadibele health zone.Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH

Breastfeeding is a human right, and critical for the health of both newborn and mother. Newborns benefit from early skin-to-skin contact and the antibodies in the mother’s first milk, plus factors that protect against later obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Mothers benefit because early breastfeeding assists in uterine shrinkage and helps prevent postpartum bleeding. In addition, frequent, exclusive, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of an immediate new pregnancy.

Optimal breastfeeding is most advantageous when started within an hour of birth and continued exclusively for six months; research shows that it could save 800,00 children’s lives. Yet, globally, only 38 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively.

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 (August 1-7) focuses on supporting women breastfeeding at the workplace (“Let’s make it work”).

For many women, especially in the developing world, barriers to breastfeeding start in the home or even the health facility -- before returning to work in her household, community, or workplace.

 {Photo credit: Todd Shapera}A 27-week premature baby in an incubator at Kibuye Hospital, Karongi District, western Rwanda.Photo credit: Todd Shapera

November is Prematurity Awareness Month in the US, and the 17th is World Prematurity Day. But I never need any reminders about the importance of access to medicines and services for premature babies. Every November, I celebrate the birthday of my own little preemie. On November 30, 1997, I went into labor just after reaching 32 weeks. I was terrified. I had had a healthy second pregnancy up to that point and my doctor did not believe me at first when I told her I was in labor. After a somewhat traumatic trip to the clinic and then the delivery, my tiny bundle of joy arrived, weighing in at a meager 1.5 kg (3.3.lbs). We were so very lucky to have access to excellent health services, not just for delivery and newborn care, but for his whole first year or so of life, when visits to the doctor to check on his heart, lungs, eyes and overall development were a weekly occurrence.

 {Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}A health worker speaks with a woman and her baby outside a clinic in Ethiopia. Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman develops high blood sugar during pregnancy.Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

This post originally appeared on Devex on November 14, World Diabetes Day ().

During her third pregnancy, Eden Bihon visited the Mekelle Health Center in Tigray, Ethiopia. Although a routine prenatal visit, it held great importance for Eden, as she had recently lost her second child, who died from unknown causes at the age of just one year.

Unknown to her at the time, this visit would have lasting implications for Eden and her baby. A 23-year-old mother, Eden, like most Ethiopian women, had concerns about her pregnancy and well-being. But gestational diabetes was not one of them.

The US Agency for International Development () and partners are hosting a Twitter relay today, June 24, from 9 am to 5 pm ET as part of the "20 Days of Action for " campaign.

We () are leading the conversation, from 12:30 to 1:00 pm ET, on "All levels, all functions, all places: Building local capacity for stronger health systems".

Follow or join us with hashtag " href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MomandBaby?src=hash">!

View the Twitter relay schedule

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.

Supporting Stronger Health Systems for Healthy Mothers and Children

We know what works to save the lives of children under five years old: We know which antibiotic to give for treating pneumonia, for example. Yet only 31% of children with suspected pneumonia receive antibiotics. And two million children die from pneumonia and diarrhea each year.

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