Abla Al Alfy & Her Mother-Centric Approach to Infant Development
Pediatrician and neonatologist, Dr. Abla Al Alfy was frustrated by the pattern of inefficiency in the hospitals of her training. Too many new mothers returned home with infants before having received proper information around optimizing their child’s health. This information gap contributed to the 21 percent of Egyptian children suffering stunted development.
Dr. Abla hypothesized that adequately informing new mothers of best practices would dramatically improve a child’s cognitive and physical development. So she created an initiative working directly with mothers in a Kuwaiti hospital. Within a year she increased breastfeeding rates from 10 to 90 percent.
Thus convinced in the power of individuals at each level of intervention, Dr. Abla developed and introduced licensed Child Nutritional Counselors to the Egyptian health system. This cadre of counselors are primarily mothers and community members from outside the medical profession, as well as health professionals and doctors. They work in hospitals, community centers, and new mothers’ homes to educate and change behavior of mothers, focusing on a child’s most critical years: the first two.
Their collective impact persuaded the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population to integrate Dr. Abla’s certification process into the public healthcare system.
“The role of “Our Dream Initiative” is crucial for qualifying and training doctors on a regular basis to directly decrease the percentage of mortalities in Egypt. They have all my support through the facilities of the National Training Institute.”
- Dr. Ahmed Emad, Egyptian Minister of Health
Soon after 1,693 counselors across 11 Egyptian governances and more than 2,000 pediatricians and nurses were certified. In areas of implementation, stunted development dropped from 21 to 10 percent, and the exclusive breastfeeding rate grew from 13 to 52 percent.
Building on this success, Dr. Abla launched “Our Dream Initiative” in 2015, to widen focus from a child’s first two to first six years of life during which 95 percent of a child’s brain and physical growth happens. This expansion moves beyond targeted age range and includes methodology. Her holistic approach now extending to telecommunication innovation that reaches more communities of mothers; capacity building that adopts a task shifting approach to certify more community activists with at least 12 years education to become child health counselors; and creating accessible family counseling centers across Egypt.
Directly assisting more than 230,640 mothers and reaching more than 340,640 women thus far, Dr. Abla’s work continues to scale across her home country within which she is targeting every mother through public and social media campaigns, creating diploma programs in top medical colleges and working across three government ministries.
Throughout MENA, including Kuwait, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abla speaks and oversees replication efforts, such as the “Arab Dream Initiative.” Just as she observed the dramatic increase of exclusive breastfeeding practices, she intends to see continued growth in Kuwait and around the world.
“Health along with education are the two pillars of the development of any nation. And that’s what “Our Dream Initiative” and its founder, Dr. Abla, are doing.”
- Osama Kamal, Egyptian TV Presenter
““Our Dream Initiative” is one of the leading societal entities that execute effective awareness campaigns, which is a golden key for sustainable development.”
- Governor of Port Said, Egypt
“The tele-communication module, which “Our Dream Initiative” leads with the Ministry of Communication is unprecedented and of exceptional benefit where children are easily diagnosed and monitored. The healthcare professionals are regularly trained and the awareness level of the community raises significantly. Watch the enthusiasm and the passion of Dr. Abla and you would love to be part of this.”
- Evelyn Botros, ECCD and Learning Advisor, Plan International - Egypt