Helping Babies Survive

This success story was provided by GHC member, American Academy of Pediatrics

Helping Babies Survive (HBS) is a suite of three educational training programs – Helping Babies Breathe (HBB), Essential Care for Every Baby (ECEB) and Essential Care for Small Babies (ECSB) – designed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to reduce neonatal mortality in resource-limited environments, where the majority of neonatal deaths occur. Of the 130 million babies born worldwide each year, about 2.7 million do not survive the first 4 weeks of life and approximately half of all newborn deaths occur in the first 24 hours after childbirth.  Tragically, nearly 80% of all newborn deaths result from three preventable and treatable conditions:  complications during childbirth (asphyxia), newborn infections and complications from prematurity.  The HBS programs pair evidence-based medicine with a unique training methodology that together address these leading causes of neonatal mortality.

HBS in an initiative of AAP, in collaboration with USAID, Laerdal Global Health, Johnson & Johnson, Save the Children, and a number of other global health organizations.  All collaborators are part of the Survive & Thrive Global Development Alliance, a public-private partnership that supports the effective and widespread implementation of the HBS programs.

Helping Babies Breathe, the first module developed within the HBS program suite, trains health workers in the essential skills of neonatal resuscitation and newborn care.  In the five years that HBB has been implemented across the globe, a clear result has emerged:  the curriculum is helping save the lives of the approximately 10 million babies born each year who need assistance breathing at birth.  The recently released report, Helping Babies Breathe: Lessons learned guiding the way forward, highlights the program’s impact in reducing neonatal mortality and strengthening the performance of providers who prevent and manage newborn asphyxia in low-resource settings.  It also examines data collected from 2010 through 2014, outlining next steps and goals for improvement.

Overall, HBB has led to a complete change in the global landscape of newborn resuscitation over the past five years.  Since its launch in 2010, HBB has been implemented in 77 countries, more than 300,000 health care providers have received training, and approximately 52 countries now have government-led and coordinated HBB programs.  The program’s success created a demand for supplementary training modules to address other leading causes of newborn death, prompting the development and rollout of ECEB in 2014 and ECSB in 2015.  But most importantly, HBB is helping newborns survive and thrive.  An impact study in Tanzania showed that HBB can reduce neonatal mortality on the first day of life by 47 percent and fresh stillbirth by 24 percent.

HBB was created with the belief that every baby should be given the chance to take its first breath, and the 5-year progress report shows that it can be a catalyst for increasing skilled attendance at birth, building linkages between communities and health facilities, and strengthening health systems.  However, there is always more work to be done.  Moving forward, AAP and its implementing partners are already taking steps to work more strategically and deliberately to improve quality of care, sustainability and national impact for all three HBS programs, thereby accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending all preventable newborn and child deaths by 2030.