It’s the middle of May, which means that your twins should be arriving soon. As an obstetrician and mother of three, I hope that the last trimester of your pregnancy has been easy for you. In in your six-inch Stella McCartneys looking as fabulous as ever, you are certainly the envy of many pregnant moms. I know my feet only saw slippers and sneakers in the last trimester. I wish you the healthiest birth for your twins.
I’m writing to you today because so many women around the world are not giving birth to healthy babies. Their babies are born too soon. Prematurity has reached epidemic proportions — nearly 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks) each year. Tragically, one million of those babies will not survive. In fact, prematurity is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five. And those that do survive often face a lifetime of health complications. This burden is particularly high in the African American community, where one in six babies are born preterm. The rates are also high in East Africa, where my team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) East Africa Preterm Birth Initiative works with researchers from Makerere University, the University of Rwanda, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
Fortunately, there is a low-cost intervention that dramatically improves outcomes for these newborns in East Africa and the US. It’s called Kangaroo Care (KC). Parents and caregivers who practice KC hold their babies skin to skin, which keeps them warm (more effectively than even an incubator can), helps them regulate their respiration, and promotes breastfeeding. It’s good for parents too. As you know, nothing feels better than holding your baby close.
Today, May 15th, is International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. Would you help us spread the word about this powerful practice that can save babies lives across the world? While KC is essential care for preterm infants, it is great for all newborns. When the time comes, we’d love to see photos of you and Jay Z on Instagram doing KC with your babies. As an artist that women around the world look up to, your promotion of this vital practice could literally save lives.
Dilys Walker, MD
UCSF East Africa Preterm Birth Initiative