Breath of Life focuses on strengthening the quality of newborn care in low-resource settings, where hospitals are too often ill-equipped to serve this vulnerable population. By providing appropriate medical devices and staff training, Breath of Life ensures these facilities can save the lives of infants suffering from jaundice and respiratory distress, common and easily treatable newborn conditions. The program gives health professionals the tools they need to fulfill their vision of delivering care, parents the opportunity to see their child grow and thrive, and children the chance to lead healthy and productive lives.
In a public-private partnership with MTTS, a Vietnam based social enterprise that manufactures affordable medical devices for neonatal units, Breath of Life addresses the multiple challenges that hospitals in low-resource environments face in reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity by:
- Providing hospitals with durable new medical technology that is designed to function in low-resource settings, is easy to operate, and has no expensive consumable parts
- Training doctors and nurses to use the equipment effectively
- Providing additional clinical education on essential and advanced newborn care using a “train the trainer” approach
- Supporting equipment maintenance by offering warranties and providing timely repairs
- Ensuring program effectiveness through ongoing monitoring and evaluation
As Thrive Networks has scaled Breath of Life, the program has developed and sustained deep relationships with local and international partners, including over 300 hospitals in 10 countries and thousands of doctors and nurses. To ensure sustainability, Breath of Life works to strengthen linkages with local health authorities and ministries, involve them in integrating these technologies into the larger health system and strengthen their sustainability. We proactively seek to share our learnings and program model with others organizations in the Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health sector, using collaboration and partnerships to build a world in which no child dies from preventable causes.
The first 28 days of life – the neonatal period – is the most vulnerable time for a child’s survival. Since the UN's Millennium Development Goal #4 began targeting reduction in child mortality in 1990, there has been a significant decrease in under-five deaths. Progress in reducing newborn deaths has been far slower, with newborn deaths accounting for 44% of under-five mortality. With only six percent of official development assistance for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health targeted for newborn survival programs, the neonatal period remains the “last mile” in achieving global under-five mortality targets set for 2015.
In the low-resource countries where Breath of Life operates, many newborns die—or develop disabilities—because most hospitals lack the appropriate equipment and training to address easily treatable conditions. High-tech medical technology is often donated to low-resource hospitals, but the majority of these devices remain are never used as they are not designed to last in these environments. Doctors and nurses find that the donated equipment is difficult and expensive to operate, costly to repair, and unsuited to hospitals that lack a reliable power supply. In countries with high infant mortality rates, there is a large unmet need for what Breath of Life offers: affordable, durable neonatal technology, backed by warranties, staff training, and ongoing maintenance support.
The equipment provided by Breath of Life is designed and manufactured by MTTS. MTTS provides a complete package of appropriate technologies for newborn intensive care units, including:
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to treat respiratory distress and other common respiratory pathologies.
- Firefly LED phototherapy to treat neonatal jaundice
- Infant resuscitation station
- Pulse oximeters to measure oxygen levels in the blood
- Hand sanitizers
When hospitals are equiped with these basic neonatal devices, they can more effectively treat all the babies born into their care, including premature, low birth weight, and those suffering from common newborn illnesses.