Kangaroo Care East Africa preterm Birth initiative

On International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day each May 15th, we honor the power of this life-saving intervention. Low-tech and high-touch, kangaroo care (KC) is perfectly suited for preterm babies in low-resource settings. Wrapped skin-to-skin against the chests of their mothers or other family members – tiny babies, so vulnerable to hypothermia, are kept warm. KC facilitates bonding, helps babies regulate their respiration, and promotes breastfeeding.

At the East Africa Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi-EA), KC is integrated into our primary research studies at select hospitals in Kenya and Uganda. KC is one evidence-based practice within a package of interventions designed to strengthen the quality of care for mothers and preterm babies. PTBi-EA, in partnership with PRONTO International, trains nurses and midwives to promote and support KC with families. Since introducing training, uptake of KC has increased more than 40% across our research sites in both countries.

Mothers practicing KC with the help of providers at hospitals in Uganda.

World Health Organization guidelines currently recommend KC only for clinically stable babies weighing ≤2000g (approximately 4.4 lbs or less). However, Dr. Melissa Morgan, an assistant professor of neonatology at UCSF and PTBi fellowship graduate, recently completed a study at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda. She found that KC is also feasible and acceptable for unstable babies ≤2000g. More research is needed to understand the impact of KC on this vulnerable population, but Dr. Morgan's findings suggest that KC could be adopted as a life-saving intervention for the smallest and sickest babies in these settings.

The KC Room at Migori County Referral Hospital in Kenya opened on World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2016.

A common barrier to the practice of KC in low-resource settings is the lack of space in overcrowded hospitals. Mothers can be found sitting on the floors of cramped newborn units holding their babies for hours on end. At Migori County Referral Hospital, the PTBi-Kenya team addressed this need. In 2016, the team interviewed mothers about their hopes for a KC room and worked with the hospital to secure and renovate a space. This cheerful, comfortable space has room for families to visit and participate in KC, making it possible for tiny babies to get the care they need.

Whether a mother is blessed with one baby or many, KC is a vital, low-cost intervention that can save lives!

About PTBi

At PTBi-EA our focus is on saving lives. Each year across the world, one million preterm babies die within the first 28 days of life, while over 300,000 women die in childbirth. PTBi-EA is working to reduce the number of preterm births and save the lives of preterm infants and their mothers, by improving quality of care and engaging in discovery research in regions of Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.

PTBi-EA is a collaboration among the University of California, San Francisco's Institute for Global Health Sciences; Kenya Medical Research Institute; Makerere University in Uganda; University of Rwanda and Rwanda Biomedical Center. PTBi-EA's work is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To learn more about PTBi-EA, please view our video.

To learn more about our Tiny Hats for Tiny Babies Campaign, visit this page and view our video.


Photos: Abubaker Lubowa and Nicholas Berger. Videos: Nicholas Berger

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