Members of the Helping Babies Breathe Global Development Alliance

Every child deserves a fifth birthday. To reach five years, though, a child must take his or her first breath of life in the first minute following birth. The World Health Organization estimates approximately one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia, a condition in which babies who do not breathe on their own immediately following delivery.

Developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Helping Babies BreatheSM (HBB) initiative was designed to equip birth attendants in developing countries with the skills they need to successfully resuscitate babies born without the ability to breathe on their own. At the center of HBB is the concept of The Golden MinuteSM: within one minute of birth, a baby should be breathing well or should be ventilated with a bag and mask.

The effectiveness of the HBB curriculum is evident in the lives saved for babies like little Job in Kenya and Shakila’s baby in Afghanistan.  Both were born without a cry and in desperate need to breathe.  When both Shakila’s baby and Job were born, their mothers thought they were dead.  Thankfully, Nurse Dr. Shifajo in Afghanistan and Mary Wekesa in Kenya were trained in HBB, and knew hope was not lost.  They vigorously rubbed and dried the babies. When that did not stimulate them to breathe, they used a suction bulb to clear their mouth and nose, and used a bag-and-mask device to help push air into their lungs until they took their first glorious breaths.

HBB simplified and demystified newborn resuscitation and made resuscitation devices available at a very affordable price by linking with the private sector.  But it was the power of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model – public-private partnership on a global scale – that dramatically expanded access to newborn resuscitation in remote health facilities and communities in 34 countries within 18 months of the launch of the partnership.   It did so by leveraging the commitment, resources, and support of a diverse group of program implementers, NGOs, private sector organizations, government institutions, UN agencies, professional associations to enable the rapid roll out of the intervention globally.

Since the launch of the HBB GDA in June 2010, nearly 70,000 health professionals like Nurse Mary Wekesa and Dr. Shifajo have been trained in newborn resuscitation using the HBB curriculum. The GDA partners have worked with governments and national stakeholders to support the development of national newborn resuscitation strategies, coordinate training activities, and strengthen systems including quality improvement, national health information systems, and procurement of resuscitation equipment. Rigorous evaluation has begun in several countries to determine the impact of HBB on child mortality.

In 2011, USAID awarded the Global Development Alliance Excellence Award of the Year to its GDA partners, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Laerdal Medical, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children.  In early 2012, HBB was nominated for the Women Deliver Top 50 inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for girls and women.

Baby Job and Shakila’s baby both went home from the hospital happy healthy newborns with a chance of reaching their fifth birthday thanks to skills Nurse Wekesa and Dr. Shifajo learned.  As an alliance of health professionals, we hope every child has the same chance at life. You can read more about Shakila’s baby and Job’s stories and view a short video on HBB here and here and learn more on the HBB website.

Contact: Amanda Makulec, John Snow Inc. at amakulec@jsi.com