Let’s make breastfeeding a shared societal responsibility: Dr Harsh Vardhan

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New Delhi, August 8, 2019 :

“Breastfeeding should not be seen as an issue that concerns only women and mothers. Let’s make the breastfeeding a shared societal responsibility where not only the mother but all in her family, community and also at work place are considerate and support the feeding mother by creating an enabling environment.” This was stated by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare at a function to mark the World Breastfeeding Week-2019, here today. Even the theme of this year of World Breastfeeding Week is ‘to empower parents, enable breastfeeding: now and for the future’, he added. The Union Health Minister also released a Report Card on Breastfeeding & Infant & Child Feeding Practices with data from the State and UTs, along with new communication material in the presence of Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (HFW) and Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW), senior officers of MoHFW, and representatives of various Development Partner agencies.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that breastfeeding is the most cost effective intervention that addresses the survive and thrive agenda of child health. It is the first vaccine that protects both the mother and child. Studies have highlighted how breastfeeding could prevent diseases and deaths in children and future breast and ovarian cancer in mothers. “Early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth can prevent neonatal mortality; whereas exclusive breastfeeding for six months significantly reduces episodes of diarrhoea and pneumonia in infants and children,” he said.

To intensify the efforts towards promotion and support of breastfeeding, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that the activities advocating benefits of breastfeeding should not be limited to only a week in August. “The activities around breastfeeding should be sustained throughout the year and therefore Health Ministry will be carrying out activities to promote breastfeeding by creating awareness about its multi-fold benefits from 1st to 7th of every month till 2022,” he stressed. The Union Health Minister further said that the Health Ministry is giving highest importance to this intervention and is already supporting the States in implementing a nationwide programme named – ‘MAA’ (Mothers’ Absolute Affection). “This involves a comprehensive set of activities on promotion and support of breastfeeding at community and facility levels, through building an enabling environment. Reinforcing lactation support services at public health facilities through trained healthcare providers and awareness generation activities at community level are also being focused,” Dr Harsh Vardhan elaborated.

Speaking about the Report Card released by him today, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that based on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data, this Ministry has prepared the State Specific Report Card on breastfeeding. “The best performing States as well as the best performing districts in each State have been identified. This will serve as ready reckoner for the programme managers and policy makers of the States and UTs. It will also initiate a healthy competition among the States and districts within the States”, he added.

Dr Harsh Vardhan also highlighted the importance of Deworming. He stated that the Health Ministry is conducting the ninth round of National Deworming Day (NDD) today. “This flagship single day program is implemented to reduce the prevalence of Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) or parasitic intestinal worms so that they are no longer a public health problem. The NDD program in this August round aims to reach 32.8 crore children and adolescents in 33 states/UTs,” the Union Health Minister elaborated. He further said that the Ministry is hopeful to see significant participation from private schools and institutions where all children 1- 19 years old are engaged, such as technical institutes, junior colleges, poly-techniques and others. “This year the NDD is being conducted on 8th August and mop-up day on the 16th August. What we achieve in India leaves a huge impact on global burden of worm infestation by more than a quarter burden here in India,” he said.