Kangaroo Mother Care in Colombia: A Subaltern Health Innovation against For-profit Biomedicine


This ethnographic study presents the origins, growth, and collapse of the first Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) program, a well‐established practice for neonatal care created in 1978 in Colombia. The WHO and UNICEF praised this zero‐cost revolutionary technique for its promotion of skin‐to‐skin contact between premature and low‐birth‐weight newborns and family members. KMC facilitates early hospital discharge, brings many clinical and psychological benefits, and constitutes an excellent alternative to placing babies in incubators. However, these benefits and political potential against biomedical interventions were undermined after being relabeled as a “reverse innovation,” a business concept that encourages corporate investments in low‐income countries to develop technologies that can both solve global health problems and boost multinational corporations profits. In response, I propose “subaltern health innovations” as a label for KMC that accounts for the power dynamics in global health between health care initiatives that originate in the Global South and neoliberal configurations of for‐profit biomedicine.