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Mexico declares breastfeeding a top health priority

Mexico’s Secretary of Health, Salomón Chertorivski, said this week that breastfeeding will be a top priority on his country’s public health agenda, following a workshop on breastfeeding promotion organized by Mexico’s Secretariat of Health, the National Commission for Social Protection in Health, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Mexico City.

The workshop was held to discuss a proposed policy on breastfeeding in Mexico that includes concrete measures for updating the legal framework for breastfeeding, promoting breastfeeding at all levels of the health services, supporting breastfeeding practices, and creating mechanisms for surveillance, monitoring and evaluation.

Breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention to prevent death among children under 5. Research shows that some 20 percent of neonatal (under 1 month old) deaths could be prevented if all newborns began breastfeeding during the first hour of life. Children who are breastfed an average of seven to nine months have six points higher IQ than children who are breastfed less than a month. Breastfeeding also helps mothers lose weight and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as diabetes type 2.

In Mexico, a national health insurance survey in 2009 found that fewer than half (43.2 percent) of babies were exclusively breastfed during their first three days of life. PAHO/WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months of life.

Participants in this week’s workshop agreed on a number of key priorities for action, including:

  • Passage of a national law on breastfeeding, currently under consideration by the Mexican Senate, that recommends support for breastfeeding by working mothers and calls for the establishment of new breast milk banks.
  • Revitalization of an intersectoral committee on breastfeeding, made up of representatives of civil society and academia, to oversee the implementation of the proposed policy.
  • More training on breastfeeding support for health workers and medical professionals.
  • The establishment of spaces for breastfeeding in workplaces, schools and health facilities.
  • Development of a communication strategy to raise awareness that supporting breastfeeding is the responsibility of all members of society.
  • A re-evaluation of the Baby-Friendly Hospitals Initiative and dissemination of the results.

We have seen that many of the key elements for implementing the proposed policy already exist or are in development in Mexico,” said PAHO/WHO Representative in Mexico Dr. Philippe Lamy.

“The country needs resources to improve one of the most cost-effective interventions in the world: breastfeeding,” said Dr. Chessa Lutter, PAHO/WHO senior advisor on maternal and child nutrition.

In August of this year. PAHO called on countries throughout the Americas to renew the commitment of all sectors of society to create environments supportive of breastfeeding, including in the workplace, parks, in public transportation, health facilities, and other places outside the home where mothers of babies and small children carry on their lives. The call to action was timed to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week 2011.

 

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