Objective: To examine the costs of implementing kangaroo mother care (KMC) in a referral hospital in Nicaragua, including training, implementation, and ongoing operating costs, and to estimate the economic impact on the Nicaraguan health system if KMC were implemented in other maternity hospitals in the country.
Methods: After receiving clinical training in KMC, the implementation team trained their colleagues, wrote guidelines for clinicians and education material for parents, and ensured adherence to the new guidelines. The intervention began September 2010 The study compared data on infant weight, medication use, formula consumption, incubator use, and hospitalization for six months before and after implementation. Cost data were collected from accounting records of the implementers and health ministry formularies.
Results: A total of 46 randomly selected infants before implementation were compared to 52 after implementation. Controlling for confounders, neonates after implementation had lower lengths of hospitalization by 4.64 days (P = 0.017) and 71% were exclusively breastfed (P < 0.001). The intervention cost US$ 23 113 but the money saved with shorter hospitalization, elimination of incubator use, and lower antibiotic and infant formula costs made up for this expense in 1 - 2 months. Extending KMC to 12 other facilities in Nicaragua is projected to save approximately US$ 166 000 (based on the referral hospital incubator use estimate) or US$ 233 000 after one year (based on the more conservative incubator use estimate).
Conclusions: Treating premature and low-birth-weight infants in Nicaragua with KMC implemented as a quality improvement program saves money within a short period even without considering the beneficial health effects of KMC. Implementation in more facilities is strongly recommended.