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Non-profit group focuses on saving babies, lifesaving neonatal program


Breath Of Life phototherapy at PGH

SAN FRANCISCO, California – Oakland-based international development organization East Meets West hosted an evening event on November 10, 2012 at the San Francisco Veterans War Memorial, celebrating the expansion of its innovative, lifesaving neonatal program, Breath of Life, to the Philippines. The program– which provides new, durable medical equipment and staff training to low-resource hospitals–promises to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable newborns in a country ranked eighth highest globally in number of preterm births.

With the support of donors like the Lemelson Foundation, and in close partnership with the Consuelo Foundation, the Philippines Department of Health, and Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Breath of Life is already treating infants in hospitals in several provinces, including Baguio General Hospital in Baguio City, and Bataan General Hospital in Balanga City. The total cost to implement the program in a typical provincial hospital runs about $50,000, funding neonatal equipment and staff training.

Deputy Consul General, Jaime Ramon Ascalon, praised Breath of Life for its effective, sustainable approach to the persistent problem of high infant mortality rates in many parts of Asia. In the Philippines, the program works with local hospitals to increase their capacity to treat infants born with commonly occurring, but potentially life- threatening, medical conditions like respiratory distress and jaundice. Ascalon narrated how as a young father to a newly born jaundiced baby, he had to bring the infant child outdoors everyday, to bask under the sunlight –a local cure for infant jaundice, for two straight weeks. East Meets West’s warrantied equipment– can reverse neonatal jaundice within hours.  Combined with thorough training of local doctors and nurses in both equipment use and newborn care–guarantees a sustainable program with long-term impacts.

Philippine International Aid Chairperson Mona Lisa Yuchengco, who earlier this year saw the program up close at Philippine General Hospital, shared her impressions: “Breath of Life is much more than just another medical mission, as worthy as those are, because it puts in place the tools and skills low-resource hospitals need to treat newborns in distress. The medical equipment is designed with durability in mind. The doctors and nurses get intensive hands-on training. If we support this program I think it can have a national impact in the Philippines, as it has in other countries where East Meets West has implemented it.”

First implemented in Vietnam in 2006 and now active in every province of that country, Breath of Life has grown to treat over 50,000 newborns annually following its expansion to Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Thailand, and now the Philippines.

During the event, Dr. Peter Singer, Chairman of the Board of East Meets West, awarded the “Chairman’s Award” to four individuals for their contribution and service to Breath of Life. Three were nurses from the Children Hospital and Research Center in Oakland who volunteered at overseas trainings. They were Mary Jane Levy, RN (Vietnam and Cambodia), Rini Kok, RN (Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar) and Tess Estocapio, RN (Philippines.)

Neonatologist, Dr. Priscilla Joe, also from Children’s Hospital was also honored for being a medical advisor to the program for several years, assisting at all levels, including program development, implementation, monitoring, presentation or result to colleagues, advocacy, creation of training curriculum, and has led numerous training in Breath of Life countries.

Prominent Bay Area journalist Lloyd LaCuesta emceed the invitation-only event, which featured special guests Deputy Consul General Hon. Jaime Ramon Ascalon, and Ray Dean Salvosa of the Consuelo Foundation, Breath of Life’s local nonprofit partner in the Philippines. Entertainment was provided by rising star jazz crooner Mitch Franco,

Breath of Life, Philippines

 EMW office is located at the Citibank Tower building, on Paseo de Roxas, in Makati. They share the space with the Consuelo Foundation. Currently their program operates in five public hospitals: Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Manila, Fabella Memorial, Manila; Baguio General, Baguio; Benguet General, La Trinidad; and Bataan General Hospital, Balanga City. Country Representative is Iris Ngo-Gokeelao, a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University and most recently worked for Action Against Hunger.

There are approximately 3,000 health care facilities where babies are born. East Meets West hopes to implement the program in several dozen locations throughout the Philippines. They operate under the support and permission from

the Department of Health. Dr. Enrique Ona, the Secretary of Health, is one of their supporters. EMW is also supported by the University of the Philippines Medical School.


Through partnership with Consuelo Foundation, represented by Ray Salvosa, the Breath of Life program got up and running in less than one year.  With more community support and assistance from others, EMW hopes to expand their outreach to include education and clean water and sanitation programs in the Philippines.


EMW President John Anner, who will celebrate his tenth anniversary with EMW in 2013, has dedicated himself to building EMW into a global leader in effective solutions to development issues such as the lack of clean water and sanitation, high infant mortality, and lack of access to education. Under his leadership

Breath of Life has now expanded to six other Asian countries from its beginnings in Vietnam. The program is still new to the Philippines, but with its proven effective combination of low-cost medical equipment and targeted staff training, EMW plans to make a huge difference in the lives of underserved families.

Aside from its corporate and fundraising efforts, EMW reaches out to community organizations for direct financial support to the program, especially home-town association, who may be interested in helping EMW improve health care in their favored town or province.

Tom Low, Executive Vice President, said that 92% of every donor dollar goes to the program. EMW prides itself as rated 4-Star (highest score) by Charity Navigator, a rating organization that audits U.S. non-profits to mitigate donor skepticism about NGOs.

Established since 1988, East Meets West’ high-impact health, sanitation and education programs has benefitted more than 5.5 million impoverished families. The organization has invested more than $105 million in development solutions in Asia. For more information, please visit www.eastmeetswest.org.

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Tags: Features , Global Nation , Health , neonatal program

  • bgcorg

    Health care should focus on the enhancement of the quality of life, both of the mother and the infant, not on contraception which militates against “openness to life.”  Thus the work of this NGO is very commendable indeed.  Many a mother’s death can be prevented, on the other hand, by proper maternal medical care, not necessarily by contraception which, as medical studies have shown, have even devastating medical side effects that pro-rh advocates try to hide under the rug.  Unless poverty, however, is nipped right at the bud, the life of the mother will always be at risk with improper care, less healthy food, insufficient rest and absence of advice and medical attention (today this will cost an arm and a limb for poor patients), etc.  The government can help but please NO, to artificial contraception.  Women can do without it in maternal care!  No to artificial contraception.  No to the rh bill!   

    • vendetta07

      Yes I agree that both the baby and the mother should be taken care of.  Unfortunately hospitals are at overcapacity with new and expecting mothers so the budget is stretched thin.  I hope that you find it in your heart to support all these new mothers, especially the ones who are very poor.

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