The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching its “First Embrace” campaign today in Vietnam, highlighting simple steps that will save thousands of newborn lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of complications each year from unsafe or outdated practices in newborn care in Vietnam.
Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) begins with the First Embrace or sustained skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child shortly after birth. This simple act transfers warmth, placental blood and protective bacteria, and encourages exclusive breastfeeding.
Skin-to-skin contact should be followed by proper clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord with sterile instruments. Breastfeeding then initiates naturally at feeding cues, such as drooling, tonguing, and biting the hand. Early initiation of breastfeeding is especially important because colostrum, or “first milk”, contains essential nutrients, antibodies and immune cells.
Other routine steps such as the provision of vitamin K, eye prophylaxis, immunizations, weighing and a complete examination of the baby’s health, should be performed after the first breastfeeding. These steps must be performed in proper sequence for maximum benefit.
EENC can be performed in all birth settings without the need for complicated preparations or expensive technology. Early essential newborn care can thus also be applied in district and community health centers in remote or hard to reach areas in Vietnam. These areas experience a disproportionately high number of newborn deaths.
WHO, with support of the Ministry of Health of Vietnam, launches the First Embrace campaign in Vietnam simultaneously at three hospitals this week: Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital in the central city of Da Nang, and the National Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Hanoi.
These three hospitals are early essential newborn care Centers of Excellence in Vietnam where First Embrace practices are already in use.
WHO supports the development of these Centers of Excellence by providing coaching and training to nurses and doctors, and also by creating an enabling environment for mothers and newborns to receive early newborn care in the hospitals.
WHO’s First Embrace campaign is part of a broader effort to improve access to and quality of maternal, newborn and child health care services across Vietnam and WHO’s Western Pacific Region.
Vietnam has made great strides in the last two decades to reduce the number of children under-5 dying within the first month of life, reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal target of reducing child mortality. However, in 2012, over 17,000 newborns still died within the first month of life. For this reason, First Embrace highlights early essential newborn care, or EENC. This package of actions and interventions address the most common causes of newborn death or disease, such as prematurity (being born too soon), low birth weight and severe infection such as pneumonia or diarrhea.