Millennium Cities Initiative, Johnson & Johnson and the American Academy of Pediatrics Launch Maternal and Neonatal Health Care Program in Sub-Saharan Africa

Johnson & Johnson-backed training based on American Academy of Pediatrics’ new neonatal resuscitation program, Helping Babies BreatheSM.

New York, NY, June 18, 2010 --( The Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), a project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, committed to helping underserved urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa end extreme poverty, together with Johnson & Johnson and the American Academy of Pediatrics, announced today the launch of a sub-Saharan maternal and neonatal health care program in two Millennium Cities in Ghana. The primary objective of this program is to create a successful, scalable model for enriched, common-sense health care trainings, which will help save mothers’ and infants’ lives in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby contributing towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, reducing child and maternal mortality, respectively.

This public health campaign will be piloted in the Millennium Cities of Accra and Kumasi, Ghana, over the next nine months with the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Ghana Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service.

The partnership kicks off this week in Washington, DC, with the training of two Ghanaian “Master Trainers,” pediatricians Priscilla Naa Lomie Wobil and Fred Adomako Boateng, as participants in the AAP’s Neonatal Survival Training Program. This meeting will showcase the AAP’s new Helping Babies Breathe curriculum, an initiative developed in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), and in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development, Save the Children/Saving Newborn Lives, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laerdal Medical AS and a number of other global health organizations. Helping Babies Breathe will target the 63 countries participating in MDG 4, which aims for a reduction in under-5 child mortality by two-thirds from 1990 levels by the year 2015.

“This program is particularly critical, given that neonatal mortality during the first month of life accounts for more than 40% of child mortality worldwide, and MDG 5, reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters, has thus far shown, tragically, the least progress of all the MDGs,” said Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Co-Director, MCI. “Drs. Wobil and Adomako Boateng already direct MCI’s two model neonatal clinics in Kumasi, which are responsible for decongesting the neonatal intensive care unit there; this training will help them to save even more infants’ lives. MCI is thrilled to bring this brilliantly simple, life-saving program to our Millennium Cities, thanks to our wonderful partners.”

The Master Trainers who have come for MCI will return to Ghana and provide training in maternal and newborn care for health care workers at Ussher Polyclinic in Accra, Suntreso Hospital in Kumasi and Ghana Health Service attendants from both cities, with a curriculum including: Helping Babies Breathe techniques; breastfeeding and proper nutrition; personal hygiene; and identifying signs of treatable conditions such as diarrhea, pneumonia, diaper rash and more. The health care workers will, in turn, provide training for thousands of expectant and new mothers, who should then be able to recognize warning signs that threaten neonates’ lives during that first “Golden Minute,SM” in which a baby should be breathing well or ventilated, and beyond.

“We are pleased to be working with the Millennium Cities Initiative, the AAP, the Ghana Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service on this program,” said Joy Marini, Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson. “This new effort builds on the Neonatal Resuscitation Program partnership we have had with AAP since 2004 training thousands of health care practitioners. The Helping Babies Breathe program offers a wonderful opportunity to reach community health workers and mothers with training that will save newborns’ lives.”

Johnson & Johnson is also supporting MCI’s health care workers’ training and creating a “Newborn Care Package” to include Johnson & Johnson products based on topics included in the curriculum and a pamphlet on newborn care.

Based on the success of the pilot, MCI hopes to expand the training program to other Millennium Cities. MCI will develop a monitoring and evaluation instrument to measure the impact of this training on the lives of mothers and their babies.

This program is especially timely as the world prepares for the United Nations General Assembly Summit on the MDGs in September, and as the UN and the global health community work to further reduce maternal and infant mortality around the world.

Millennium Cities Initiative
Mary Everette Cann