A program launched by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) dropped the rate of newborn deaths in the developing world from 13 per 1,000 babies to seven per 1,000, according to research online ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics.

The rate of stillbirth fell from 19 per 1,000 babies before to just over 14 per 1,000 after.

The educational program, Helping Babies Breathe (HBB), uses a basic intervention approach readily applicable at all deliveries to enhance delivery room stabilization/resuscitation. HBB trains birth attendants to immediately dry and warm babies and to start breathing for babies with a bag and mask if they don’t breathe on their own within one minute.

“The majority of deliveries in resource-limited areas are done by the midwife, and the midwife wasn’t really taught how to deal with a baby once they were born,” said Jeffrey Michael Perlman, MB,ChB, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who helped implement the program in Tanzania.

“If you can just teach them, when the baby’s born, to immediately dry the baby off… that drying and a little bit of stimulating will probably get 90 to 93 percent of babies breathing that weren’t breathing before. That’s the most exciting part, that something very simple can save many, many lives.”