Human Chain at Niloufer Hospital Highlights Breastfeeding as a Lifesaving Intervention

Dr. Ramesh Reddy, Director Medical Education, Telangana, kicks off a weeklong celebration of World Breastfeeding Week with event at Niloufer Hospital

Hyderabad August 1, 2017. More than 100 doctors, nurses, and patients at Niloufer Hospital joined the Director Medical Education, Telangana to form a human chain in commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 to 7, 2017.The event raises awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and the critical role that hospitals, healthcare workers,families, organizations, and Governments can play in helping mothers understand the need for early and exclusive breastfeeding.

Current estimates suggest that only 41.6 percent children are breastfed within one hour of birth in India and only about half of all mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life. In Telangana, just 37 percent of newborns are breastfed within one hour and two thirds of mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. Studies have shown that breastfeeding plays a significant role in improving nutrition, education, and maternal and child health and survival. Breastfeeding is one of the top interventions for reducing under five mortality. On average, infants younger than six months who are not breastfed are three to four times more likely to die than those who receive breast milk.

With more than 90 percent of all births taking place in healthcare facilities, creating a hospital environment where mothers are taught to breastfeed their newborns early and often is more urgent than ever. Today’s human chain highlights how hospitals and healthcare workers help all stakeholders understand the importance of breastfeeding for newborn survival and subsequent good health.

The event was organized by ACCESS Health International, a non profit think tank working to improve access to high quality affordable care, and the National Neonatology Forum, Telangana State Chapter.ACCESS Health leads a Safe Care, Saving Lives maternal and child health program which focuses on quality improvement  and provides ongoing support to public and private healthcare facilities to help them improve the quality of maternal and newborn care and reduce neonatal and perinatal deaths.

Partners in the Safe Care, Saving Lives program include ACCESS Health, the Office of the Commissioner  Health and Family Welfare, and the Aarogyasri HealthCare Trust in Telangana. The government of Telangana and ACCESS Health are also working on a new initiative to standardize labour rooms across the state, to improve the quality and efficiency of care in birthing units and maternity wards to save newborn lives and protect the health of mothers.

Today’s event began with Dr. Ramesh Dampuri, Resident Medical Officer, welcoming participating dignitaries and passing along best wishes from the Honourable Health Minister, Special Chief Secretary Medical Health and Family Welfare, and Commissioner Health and Family Welfare for the inauguration of the event.

Dr. Vasudeva Murali, the President of the National Neonatology Forum, Telangana State Chapter, addressed the gathering and highlighted the importance of working to sustain breastfeeding together. Mentioning the various events being organized by the Forum for World Breastfeeding Week, he added “Breastfeeding increases the bond between a baby and the mother, provides the perfect nutrition, boosts immunity and protects the baby from infections. The celebration of World Breastfeeding at Niloufer Hospital is an important step to create awareness in this direction.”

Dr.Ajitkumar Sudke, Director of Quality and Process Improvement at ACCESS Health International said, “With the proper support, nurses and hospital staff can be important advocates for breastfeeding. Labour and delivery staff are with new mothers when they first meet their newborns and can help reassure mothers of their ability to nurse their babies, despite any initial challenges. Through Safe Care, Saving Lives and with the support of hospital staff and incredible leadership of the Department of Health and Family Welfare and Director Medical Education Telangana, we are helping ensure that all mothers across the state are able to initiate breastfeeding immediately after childbirth and continue breastfeeding exclusively for up to six months.”

Dr. Himabindu Singh, Head of the Department of Neonatology, Niloufer Hospital detailed the Niloufer Hospital’s quality improvement initiatives undertaken with support of ACCESS Health International. She noted how the Department of Obstetrics and Neonatology, together with the help of ACCESS Health, was able to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding to 80 percent and how together they could also increase rates of early initiation of breastfeeding. She joined other participating dignitaries in unveiling a chart of seven new Potentially Best Practices, which are best practices in maternal and child care that Niloufer Hospital is adopting with the support of ACCESS Health International and through the Safe Care, Saving Lives program.

In his signature address, Dr Ramesh Reddy, Director Medical Education, Telangana said “Breastfeeding has many benefits for women and children: saving lives, improving child health, and protecting mothers against ovarian and breast cancer deaths. There is strong evidence that demonstrates the benefits of breastfeeding for children and women in high and low income countries alike. ACCESS Health with its Safe Care, Saving Livesprogram has been supporting early initiation of breastfeeding. The opening of the new breast milk bank at Niloufer Hospital will also help support this cause.”