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Kangaroo mother care, developed in Colombia, now saves babies in Malawi

Page history last edited by Rosemary 8 years, 5 months ago

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Posted on YouTube by Save the Children USA 25 July 2008

Kangaroo mother care is a method of care of preterm infants that involves infants being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact.

By encouraging new mothers to practice “skin-to-skin” contact with their newborns, just as a kangaroo mother keeps her baby in her pouch, Kangaroo Mother Care introduced in Malawi by Save the Children is helping save lives among newborns, especially among low birth weight and pre-term babies.

Kangaroo Mother Care was designed to reduce hypothermia—a drop in body temperature which poses a serious risk to newborns even in the warmest climates. When a baby is born, its temperature drops because babies are born wet and room temperature air is cold on their skin. Hypothermia can set in quickly unless steps are taken to warm the baby.

The program shows mothers how to keep their newborns warm with continuous skin-to-skin contact. By keeping mother and newborn together, it also encourages mother and child to bond emotionally and enables the baby to breastfeed at will, giving the baby the energy to produce its own body heat. In many cases, the program reduces the need for incubators, which are prohibitively expensive in developing countries.

As the Kangaroo Mother Care expands in Malawi, Save the Children is also adopting the program for use in other countries where newborn deaths are staggeringly high, including India and Bangladesh.

Newborns have the highest risk of death among all children. Worldwide each year, four million babies die before they reach one month of age, which represents 40% of all deaths of children under five. Nearly all newborn deaths occur in developing countries. Many of these deaths could be prevented by providing appropriate care for pregnant women as well as timely, low-cost interventions such as preventing and treating infections, encouraging immediate and exclusive breast-feeding and keeping newborns warm and dry.


A Guide for Health Professionals

The World Health Organization has published Kangaroo mother care: a practical guide, a 48-page guide available in English, French and Spanish and intended for health professionals responsible for the care of low-birth-weight and preterm infants. Designed to be adapted to local conditions, it provides guidance on how to organize services at the referral level and on what is needed to provide effective kangaroo mother care. The guide includes practical advice on when and how the kangaroo-mother-care method can best be applied.

Kangaroo Mother Care was first developed in Colombia, in 1978, by pediatrician Edgar Rey, who was concerned with problems arising from a shortage of incubators and the impact of separating mothers from newborns in neonatal care units. In 1983, UNICEF brought attention to the programme, and visits began from the US, UK and Scandinavia. The first report in English about the program was published in The Lancet in May 1983. In 1996, the term Kangaroo Mother Care was agreed on during the first international workshop held in Trieste, Italy. The first International conference was held in the US in 1998 and the second international workshop was held the same year in Bogota, Colombia. The third workshop was held in Indonesia in 2000.


This story was prepared from several sources: a Save the Children success story; information on the Kangaroo Mother Care website; information on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website; and information on the World Health Organization website. I first heard about Kangaroo Mother Care in a fascinating story entitled Developing Nations: Laboratories For Health Care Innovation, by Jaclyn Shiff, Kaiser Health News, which I learned about through SciDev.Net.



You can find some other stories of similar sharing (both north-south and south-north) on Hopebuilding wiki. See:

Old US hospital equipment, vital supplies bring new life in developing countries

Sharing surplus US lab equipment empowers African researchers

North South research collaboration produces effective TB vaccine for HIV patients

Reconditioned US bicycles provide transportation in the developing world

Telemedicine charity links developing world's doctors with specialists to provide needed care

Sharing books that help people take the lead in their health care

Developing world's health care innovations find a way to the west


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