Addressing Critical Knowledge Gaps in Newborn Health

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC)

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is one of the most promising ways to save preterm and low birth weight babies in high- and low-income settings alike. This form of care, initiated in hospitals, involves teaching mothers and other caregivers how to keep newborns warm through continuous skin-to-skin contact on the mother’s chest. KMC has been shown to prevent infections, promote breastfeeding, regulate the baby’s temperature, breathing, and brain activity, and encourages mother and baby bonding. 
 
A Proven Solution to Save Lives 
 
There are several forms of skin-to-skin care and KMC. Evidence of programmatic feasibility and effectiveness of these approaches varies, and not all are suitable for each context. There is a large body of evidence showing that continuous KMC is an effective intervention for small and/or preterm babies initiated on an in-patient basis. In most cases KMC can be used in place of incubators, which are prohibitively expensive in developing countries. A recent comparison of studies in 15 developing countries found that KMC was more effective than incubator care, cutting newborn deaths by 51% for preterm babies who were stable. 
 
KMC Implementation
 
KMC is endorsed by the World Health Organization and leading experts in newborn health, but country-level adoption and implementation has been limited to date. Despite its potential to save thousands of babies every year, KMC has not had widespread scale-up since it was first recognized as an effective practice 35 years ago and only a very small proportion of newborns who could benefit from KMC receive it. Certain countries have yet to endorse KMC as national policy; in other countries where KMC policies exist, KMC has been implemented and sustained only in a modest number of facilities, despite funding and technical support from donors and partners; and in some countries where KMC is being scaled up, there is considerable evidence and observation that there remains a large proportion of low birth weight babies not yet receiving quality KMC.
 
Accelerating the Uptake of this Essential Intervention
 
The KMC Acceleration Partnership is a multi-partner stakeholder group established to address the barriers to effective implementation of KMC globally, and accelerate uptake of KMC as part of a package of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) services.  The partnership was created in December 2013 and is an open-membership, broad umbrella group which includes representatives from institutional donors, KMC Champions, KMC practitioners and global health experts.
 
The partnership calls for increased and concentrated action at global and national levels to achieve a 50% increase in coverage of KMC by 2020 and 75% by 2025 among stable preterm newborns or babies weighing less than 2,000 grams. These ambitious coverage targets set out in the global Every Newborn Action Plan position KMC as a key component of an integrated RMNCH package of care.