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Annette King - World Breastfeeding Week 2004 Spch.

Hon Annette King
2 August 2004 Speech Notes

World Breastfeeding Week 2004, and presentation of Baby Friendly Hospital certificates

Countries all around the world are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week this week, and New Zealand is certainly among the first in the world to do so simply because of our time zone.

So I would like to offer a special welcome to you all in Parliament’s Grand Hall today, and I also want specially to thank Mandi Porta, of the Hutt Valley Breastfeeding Coalition, for organising another important breastfeeding event.

Thank you also to Julie Stufkens, of the New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority, for her role in organising the presentation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Certificates today.

Later this afternoon I will also announce the Grand Prize Winner of the 2004 International Breastfeeding Photography Competition. The competition succeeds in promoting breastfeeding because of the enthusiastic and innovative leadership of the breastfeeding sector.

Congratulations to everyone involved in such initiatives, and to everyone involved in working with families and communities to support breastfeeding.

There is a slight irony involved in the fact that this magnificent Grand Hall was formerly the place where male MPs used to play billiards and snooker. Of all the subjects that were discussed through the haze of smoke while those games were in progress, I would imagine that breastfeeding was among the least frequent.

Those were different days indeed, and society generally has come a long way since then.

Sadly, one way in which we have not come a long way, however, is in breast-feeding rates. In the days when men ruled in Parliament almost as of right, most babies were breastfed exclusively as a matter of course as well.

That is no longer the case, and there is still much change to occur before we can truly celebrate the World Health Organisation’s “gold standard” of breastfeeding around the globe.

It is appropriate, given the importance of breastfeeding to health, that the international theme of World Breastfeeding Week this year is Breastfeeding: the gold standard – safe, sound, sustainable.

In New Zealand’s case, evidence shows that breastfeeding contributes positively to five of the 13 population health objectives in the New Zealand Health Strategy --- improving nutrition, reducing obesity, and reducing the incidence and impact of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Around the world countries are initiating approaches to support breastfeeding in ways that suit them best.

The sorts of initiatives include, for example, the baby-friendly community approach in Gambia, where communities are integrating maternal nutrition, complementary feeding, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene issues.

The last report I have seen shows that in pilot areas initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of delivery is now 87 per cent, and exclusive breastfeeding for four months has increased from 1.3 per cent to 99.5 per cent.

In a different environment, in Belarus, research shows markedly improved outcomes for mothers and babies from baby-friendly hospitals compared with those from non-baby friendly hospitals.

Forty three per cent of mothers from the 16 baby-friendly hospitals, with ongoing support from clinics, were breastfeeding exclusively after three months, and 7.9 percent at six months, compared with far more depressing figures of six per cent and less than one per cent for mothers from 15 non-baby friendly hospitals.

In New Zealand, the Government is committed to continuing to implement the breastfeeding action plan (Breastfeeding: a Guide to Action) that was launched in 2002. The action plan contains a number of goals, and I am pleased New Zealand is making progress.

The NZ Breastfeeding Authority recently reported a 3 per cent increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates at six weeks (up from 46 to 49 per cent) and at three months (from 33 to 36 per cent). This is excellent news, but there is still a rapid drop-off when women leave hospital, and New Zealand must keep striving to do better.

One of the most important initiatives is, of course, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a World Health Organisation/UNICEF programme strongly promoted by the Breastfeeding Authority in New Zealand.

This initiative has been implemented in more than 15,000 hospitals in 136 countries. I have already mentioned the Belarus experience, and around the world this programme has made a positive contribution to promoting successful breastfeeding in maternity facilities, and to improving breastfeeding rates.

Most New Zealand babies are born in hospital. Baby Friendly hospitals provide an environment conducive to establishing good breastfeeding, where women are given high quality information and support for breastfeeding in the crucial early stage.

Of course, it is essential that a continuum of breastfeeding support is available to mothers upon their return home from hospital, and later, if needed, when returning to the workforce.

Supportive environments are on the increase in New Zealand, I hope, with one particularly child-friendly café in Wellington, Caffe L’affare, setting exactly the right tone with its amusing and welcoming sign that says: “Breastfeeding children will incur a fee of $1”.

The Breastfeeding Authority is working with DHBs to accredit maternity facilities as Baby Friendly, aiming to have all approximately 87 maternity facilities accredited by 2005. It is great to see three new facilities receive certificates today, but it is disappointing that this brings the total to only ten certified baby friendly facilities.

I am confident that facilities will become accredited more quickly from now on, as awareness increases, but I encourage you all to add your support for local efforts in any way you can.

The Action Plan also proposed a national breastfeeding committee to develop a cross-sector national strategy. The committee will look at not only the health sector, but also at all aspects of society that impact on breastfeeding rates, including economic factors, labour market and workplace policies, education policy, the design of public places and community facilities, and cultural issues.

A transitional committee has recently been set up to write the terms of reference for the permanent committee. The transitional committee will be disbanded prior to establishing the national breastfeeding committee, which should be in place before the end of this year.

The action plan also signals an increase in breastfeeding promotion, advocacy and coordination at both national and local level.

In June I released the implementation plan for the Healthy Eating – Healthy Action Strategy. It outlines specific actions to improve nutrition and physical activity levels. One such action is to develop a national health promotion campaign for breastfeeding, with particular emphasis on high-need groups and on community-based promotion campaigns aimed at Maori and Pacific peoples.

The WHO continues, as I said, to provide direction and leadership in terms of breastfeeding. It is great that the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes is still so important today, despite being agreed on more than 20 years ago. Progress is being made on the review of the New Zealand interpretation of this code.

And last year, of course, the WHO launched the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, encouraging countries to promote appropriate feeding for infants and young children.

As you know the WHO strategy recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, while the current Ministry of Health guidelines in New Zealand recommend exclusive breastfeeding for four to six months.

The Ministry of Health will certainly take account of the Global Strategy, and other relevant international research and recommendations, when review of the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers (Aged 0-2) begins, probably within the next year.

That review will start when the Ministry finishes its current review of food and nutrition guidelines for healthy, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

New Zealand will focus in the next year on pushing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and on developing the national breastfeeding committee and the HEHA health promotion campaigns, but everyone here can also help individually by promoting better understanding of the importance of breastfeeding exclusively, and the importance of enabling mothers to do just that.

Thank you again for asking me to share this occasion with you, and now I am looking forward to some special awards and announcements.


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