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The Johnson's Baby Healthy Skin Project

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While we all love the softness of babies’ skin (does "as soft as a baby's bottom" sound familiar to you?), most of us don’t realise this amazing organ acts as the first line of defence against infection. Small babies have developing immune systems, and skin plays a very important role in shielding them from germs and disease. However, babies’ skin is more vulnerable than adult skin because it's 30% thinner and loses moisture two times faster than adult skin. It needs very special care. That's why Johnson's Baby has launched The Johnson’s Baby Healthy Skin Project, in partnership with Unjani Clinics.

This inspiring project will change the future of more than 3 million South African babies by 2020. Poor socio-economic conditions make skin problems more difficult to confront. Babies are more exposed to the elements and conditions like dry itchy skin can get out of control, letting in bacteria that will impact negatively on a baby’s health as it grows. That's why The Johnson’s Baby Healthy Skin Project aims to achieve the following:

  • Give thousands of mothers and babies in need access to treatment through Unjani clinics.
  • Educate mothers about skin health for babies through a mass awareness campaign that aims to improve overall health through better skin health for babies.
  • Strengthen health systems in vulnerable districts by investing in Unjani clinics, contributing to the establishment of new Unjani clinics and providing training and resources for Unjani nurses.
  • Work with dermatologists and healthcare influencers to educate parents on how to attain healthy skin for healthier babies.
  • Sponsor Johnson's Baby products and educational material to improve skin health for babies in need.

Unjani is a sustainable initiative that aims to strengthen health systems in low-income communities throughout South Africa by empowering community nurses to own and operate their very own clinic within their community.  There are currently 30 Unjani clinics in South Africa providing thousands of mothers and babies in poverty access to treatment.

Knowledge is power, which is why Johnson's has also partnered with Dr Carol Hlela to help educate about baby skin health. Dr Carol Hlela is a paediatric dermatologist with a Master's in Science in Global Health Science (MSc GHS) and a PHD in Clinical Medicine from Oxford University.

Our Q&A with Dr Hlela

What’s the number one concern new parents have when they bring their baby in for the six-week check-up? This is the time mothers will have just witnessed those physiological but transient skin conditions that we see at this stage of life, because the skin at this stage is seriously underdeveloped. An example is miliaria (heat rash) and milia (neonatal acne).

How do you know if your newborn's skin is healthy? When your newborn's skin is intact, supple (nicely moisturised), not dry and has no rashes (there may still be a colourful birthmark in healthy skin). It must be said that healthy skin is a good safekeeping measure towards overall baby health. If it's not healthy, pathogens and other elements can come through, which have the potential to compromise the baby's overall health.

Why is it so important to take care of your baby’s skin from birth? At birth baby skin is underdeveloped and cannot perform its protective barrier function adequately. Due to this fact, baby skin is highly susceptible to infections and damage during the early years of life. By taking care of your baby’s skin early on you are mitigating and preventing the risk of your child developing infections and other conditions such as atopic eczema and allergies which, literature indicates, are linked to skin barrier defects. So, taking care of baby skin from birth is a protective measure that has the potential to influence the baby’s overall health.

What are the most prominent paediatric skin conditions you’re seeing in South Africa? Many conditions, from excessively dry skin from the use of incorrect products to eczema and serious skin infections – some that may even be fatal.

Why is it so important to have something like the JOHNSON’S® Baby Healthy Skin Project? And how did you get involved? The Johnson's Baby Healthy Skin Project has been instrumental in creating change for mothers and babies in rural communities. A project such as this one aims to create sustainable change in the lives of South Africans and works consistently to educate mothers on healthy baby skin practices, so that the future of skin health is a better one.

What is a healthy skin practice parents can adopt for their children?

  1. Be careful what you wash your baby's skin with. To the best of your ability, use products that have been especially formulated for baby's skin.
  2. Moisturise skin regularly even when there are no visible issues with your baby's skin.
  3. Protect your baby from the sun.
  4. When there is a visible skin problem, do not sit at home thinking it’s just going to going away on its own, it may not. Rather run it past a healthcare professional and get assured it's nothing to worry about.

The Joburg.co.za team headed to the Unjani Clinic in Orlando, Soweto, where we chatted to some moms and watched a baby massage class led by Diana Hoyos. Check out the video here:

For more information visit their website www.johnsonsbaby.co.za


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