Centers of Excellence initiative continues rapid growth in Viet Nam

Apr 15 2021

The Centers of Excellence for Breastfeeding initiative, supported by Alive & Thrive, continues to expand vigorously across Viet Nam, ensuring thousands of newborns and mothers have access to quality newborn care and breastfeeding support, a delegation from the Irish Embassy learned during visits to Quang Nam Province. Irish Aid supports the Centers of Excellence initiative.

COE mother
A mother from the Co Tu ethnic minority is breastfeeding her newborn at Dong Giang District Hospital, a Center of Excellence for Breastfeeding in Quang Nam. Photo: Tinh Ho | Alive & Thrive

“We are delighted to know that up to one in four babies will be born in a Center of Excellence for Breastfeeding in Viet Nam by 2022 if all 58 enrolled hospitals from 12 provinces become accredited," said Lisa Doherty, Deputy Head of Development, Embassy of Ireland in Viet Nam. "Today, we are more confident about this vision after hearing Quang Nam’s mission to have five out of seven hospitals designated as Centers of Excellence.”

The COE initiative in the media - read more

Doherty made her comments during a review workshop for the Centers of Excellence for Breastfeeding initiative held at Quang Nam Provincial General Hospital.

Quang Nam has more Centers of Excellence for Breastfeeding than any other provinces in the country, achieving an impressive percentage of early and exclusive breastfeeding of 95%. Just two years after the initiative was launched in Quang Nam, the rate of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth has sharply increased from 53% to 86% for vaginal births and 46% to 96% for caesarian births. All mothers who gave birth in the seven enrolled hospitals in Quang Nam praised the breastfeeding counseling and support they received from medical staff.

Roger Mathisen, Southeast Asia Director for Alive & Thrive, commended the province efforts during the pandemic and recent disasters.

“Quang Nam received nearly 350 pregnant women from COVID-19 high-risk countries, was a pandemic hotbed, and was badly affected by recent storms, floods and landslides," Mathisen said. "Two mothers confirmed with COVID-19 were supported to practice prolonged skin-to-skin contact and direct breastfeeding and were also enabled to bring a birth companion of choice despite strict COVID-19 infection control measures. I am impressed with the resilience of the health services and health workers in Quang Nam, and you are an exemplar to follow to maintain service provision for mothers and newborns during pandemics and disasters.”

After the workshop, the delegation visited Dong Giang, a remote district hospital that primarily serves families from the local Co Tu ethnic minority. With the Centers of Excellence for Breastfeeding model and family-centered services, this hospital is skillfully accommodating traditional birth preferences of ethnic minority mothers, such as receiving breastfeeding counseling in Co Tu language, changing positions during labor or having family members present while giving birth2. The combination of these methods has strengthened local women’s confidence to give birth at a hospital instead of at home.

“We are proud of the comprehensive support package to ensure equitable access to breastmilk for all newborns, including at-risk infants,” said Dr. Mai Van Muoi, Deputy Director of Quang Nam Department of Health. “Each year in the province, there are over 2,000 pre-term, low-birthweight and sick infants who cannot directly breastfeed for a period of time. Therefore, a Human Milk Bank Service Network was set up at Quang Nam General Hospital, a Center of Excellence for Breastfeeding, to provide pasteurized donor human milk for these babies.”

The Human Milk Bank in Quang Nam was launched in July 2020 in connection with the Da Nang Human Milk Bank and has already provided 54 liters of pasteurized human milk from donating mothers to 80 at-risk infants.

During the delegation’s visit, three more hospitals were awarded the Centers of Excellence designation, including Vinh Duc General Hospital and Que Son General Hospital in Quang Nam, and Hai Chau General Hospital in Da Nang, increasing the total number of Centers of Excellence in Viet Nam to 21.

“Ireland is proud to work with Alive & Thrive, the Ministry of Health, and the provincial Departments of Health to support the expansion of the Centers of Excellence for Breastfeeding initiative and Human Milk Bank network, and use the learning from Dong Giang district to outreach more ethnic minority and hard-to-reach communities in Viet Nam and the Mekong sub-region.” Doherty said.

Learn more about the COE initiative, including links to a variety of resources.

Joint press release

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