Written answers

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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745. To ask the Minister for Health the position of Ireland on the World Health Organization's international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes or later updates of this code; and the way in which Ireland endeavours to meet the requirements of the code. [24946/18]

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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A key policy priority for my Department and the HSE is to increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life through the Healthy Ireland Framework, Healthy Ireland – A Framework for Improved Health and Well-being 2013-2025.

This involves addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors at every stage of life, including the period from the pre-natal stage and through childhood, to support health and well-being.

Ireland is committed to the promotion, support and protection of breast-feeding as a priority for children’s health and recognises breast-feeding as the biologically normal feeding method for infants and young children and ensures optimum growth and development.

My Department is aware of the considerable evidence of the importance of breast-feeding to the health of both mothers and infants.  Children who are not breast-fed have a higher incidence and severity of many illnesses and breast-feeding is also a significant protective factor against obesity in children.

My Department and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend exclusive breast-feeding of infants for the first 6 months, after which mothers are recommended to continue breast-feeding, in combination with suitably nutritious and safe complementary foods ( semi-solid and solid foods) until their children are 2 years of age or older.

The National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026: Creating a Better Future Together (2016) outlines the responsibilities of my Department, our Health Service Executive and the National Women & Infants Health Programme in relation to the promotion, support and protection of breast-feeding.

Actions include improvements in support for breast-feeding both within the hospital and in the community; compliance of all maternity units with the Baby Friendly Health Initiative; implementation of the WHO Code; and breast-feeding promotion campaigns.

The HSE has recently launched a 5 year Breast-feeding Action Plan to increase levels of those both initiating and continuing breast-feeding up to 6 months exclusively and up to 2 years with suitable complementary foods.

The Breast-feeding Action Plan sets out the priority areas to be addressed over the next 5 years to improve breast-feeding supports, to enable more Irish mothers to breast-feed and to improve health outcomes for mothers and children in Ireland. The actions include the implementation of policies at hospital and community level; investment in breast-feeding training and skills development for healthcare staff; the provision of additional lactation specialist posts; and partnership working to promote a culture that accepts and supports breast-feeding maternal education and social class.

One specific action is to strengthen compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions. This will include developing measures to improve and monitor compliance.  The International Code & WHA resolutions will become policy for all Government departments, the HSE & contracted agencies and services. The HSE is drafting a policy to support the International Code of Marketing and this will be implemented by the HSE through partnership & cross- sectorial working and will be ongoing.

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