“Helping Babies Breathe”Awarded USAID’s Excellence Award

Helping baby Shifa breathe in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Tore Laerdal

Today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Raj Shah presented USAID’s 2011 Global Development Alliance Excellence Award to “Helping Babies Breathe (HBB).



Sixty seconds – that is all it takes to breathe life into a newborn that is gasping for air. This is the golden minute that can mean the difference between life and death for a newborn who is not breathing.  Jubaida, a community midwife from Bangladesh, was trained and equipped to act rapidly and appropriately when she heard no cry and felt no breathing just after Baby Shifa was born. Jubaida gently dried and rubbed the baby and, as the family looked on, she used a bag and mask to help Baby Shifa breathe as the hands of the clock ticked by.

Every year, 10 million babies require help to breathe immediately after birth. Such lifesaving care is currently only available for less than one out of four newborns.   Scaling up newborn resuscitation is challenging because it requires provider skills, appropriate equipment, and systems strengthening. Challenged by this, USAID searched for a feasible and effective approach to scale up newborn resuscitation and, on June 16, 2010, launched “ Helping Babies Breathe,” a Global Development Alliance(GDA) with a diverse group of partners – Laerdal Medical, Save the Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute for Child Health and Development, and USAID.  The partnership combines the private and NGO sector, a professional association, and the US Government.

“The program is focused on the essential steps for helping babies breathe and uses effective educational methods. But to bring true innovation,  also a third factor is required; efficient local implementation. And that is where this GDA has already proved to make a great contribution,”  said Tore Laerdal, CEO of Laerdal Medical.

The Helping Babies Breathe partnership represents a new way of doing business in the field of newborn health and has now become a key USAID strategy to roll out newborn resuscitation and essential newborn care globally.  This partnership is ground-breaking. In just over a year since the launch of the partnership, over 18,000 health providers have been trained in 27 countries. A pilot study in Tanzania reported that HBB reduced asphyxia-related death by over 50 percent among 7,000 newborns.  Rigorous evaluation plans are now being designed in several countries to determine the performance and impact of HBB as it is being scaled out to address the broader international need as part of national newborn programs.

“The GDA concept is powerful; it’s activities in 27 countries has resulted in a wave of activity in other countries, stimulated a review of evidence at WHO, increased participation of new partners, has brought more attention and support for integrating essential newborn care and maternal life saving care education, and has stimulated the development of engineering innovations in life-saving newborn devices,” said Dr. William Keenan of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The innovations that have created this significant solution in newborn resuscitation include Laerdal’s low cost, life-like mannequin (NeoNatalie) with its easy-to-clean and boilable device to clear the newborn’s airway addressed the global need for a low-cost, resuscitation training simulator.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed the “Helping Babies Breathe” curriculum that simplified the resuscitation action algorithm so that it can be implemented even in peripheral health facilities and communities. These life-saving technologies are available on a not-for profit basis to all 68 Millennium Development Goal countries. Since its inception the partnership has expanded: AAP has pledged to save one million newborns by 2015 and Laerdal has created a spin-off company, Laerdal Global Health, to develop new technologies to address base of the pyramid maternal and child health.

As part of USAID’s 50 th Anniversary, the Agency is celebrating Public-Private Partnerships Week October 17-21, 2011 to highlight the mutual benefit that development and business have in establishing public-private partnerships (PPP) and to celebrate the 10 th anniversary of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) program.

Dr. Lily Kak is the Senior Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID)