Laos has integrated the Center of Excellence for Breastfeeding (COE) criteria into the country’s national hospital accreditation quality standards and the national reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (2021-2025) strategy, laying the foundation for Laotian hospitals to join the COE initiative. The decision came after the COE initiative was successfully piloted in Viet Nam, where 21 hospitals have been certified under the program over the past two years.
COE, a novel implementation model to scale up the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” incorporates WHO’s updated global guidance on early essential newborn care to promote breastfeeding-enabling hospital environments. For the first time, indicators measuring performance to consistently implement breastfeeding counseling, prolonged skin-to-skin contact, early initiation of breastfeeding, rooming-in, and adherence to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes are included in Laos’s national health monitoring system as the COE monitoring system is integrated.
COE assessment checklists, including for birth observations, maternal exit interviews, and medical record reviews, will now be incorporated into the national Integrated Quality Assessment mechanism. Then, a joint team composed of representatives from the Strategy Secretariat, Department of Healthcare & Rehabilitation, and local health authorities will evaluate whether Laotian hospitals fulfill COE criteria.