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USAID Health Care Improvement Project Promotes Breastfeeding to Improve Child Health in El Salvador

by Domitilia de Herrera and Trinidad Granados
December 27, 2010

Rosa Delmy Fuentes Hernández nurses her newborn daughter. Photo by Domy de Herrera, URC-El Salvador.
Rosa Delmy Fuentes Hernández nurses her newborn daughter. Photo by Domy de Herrera, URC-El Salvador.

Twenty-two-year-old Rosa Delmy Fuentes Hernández is a resident of La Paz, a town located in the municipality of La Union in El Salvador. After reaching a full-term pregnancy, Mrs. Hernández entered the Santa Rosa de Lima National Hospital in La Union, El Salvador in active labor. She had a normal delivery and gave birth to a girl weighing about seven pounds. The hospital obstetrician team’s efforts to encourage breastfeeding immediately following delivery impressed Mrs. Hernández. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immediate breastfeeding is a critical aspect of caring for infants. WHO recommends colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, as the ideal food for newborns because of its boosting effect on babies’ immune systems. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect newborns against disease, and provides more fat and protein than ordinary milk. Research shows that continuous breastfeeding for the first six months is linked to decreased infant mortality.

Just like Ms. Hernández and her newborn daughter, the Santa Rosa de Lima Hospital aspires to teach every healthy mother and baby pair how to breastfeed successfully immediately after delivery. The hospital has been working with the USAID Health Care Improvement (HCI) Project, which is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health with its national initiative to improve the quality of maternal, reproductive, and child health care in El Salvador by introducing proven standards and improvement exercises to meet them.

The HCI Project is funded by the US Agency for International Development and managed by University Research Co., LLC.

Santa Rosa de Lima National hospital in La Union is one of 28 maternity hospitals of El Salvador’s national health system to benefit from the HCI project. Coordinated by the Ministry of Health’s National Quality Committee, breastfeeding promotion is a significant part of the program’s newborn care quality improvement standards. In order to facilitate exclusive breastfeeding, hospitals are asked to follow the National Quality Standard, which encourages practices such as breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivery and breastfeeding counseling to new mothers like Mrs. Hernández.

HCI and Ministry of Health’s quality improvement program has improved the standard of care in El Salvador maternity hospitals, and will continue to make a difference in outcomes for both mothers and their newborns.

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