Happy Breastfeeding Week! #WBW2018

World breastfeeding week takes place from August 1st to 7th this year. This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life.

There are tools for all of your advocacy and information needs!

WHO has infographics and webinar information: http://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2018/08/01/default-calendar/world-breastfeeding-week-2018

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has an action folder in several languages (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/actionfolder/) and a social media toolkit (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/social-media-kit/).

WABA is also hosting a Thunderclap! Those who join will automatically share the same breastfeeding message at the same time across FaceBook and Twitter on August 1. https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/70825-world-breastfeeding-week-2018

In related news: In the U.S., Idaho and Utah recently passed bills legalizing breastfeeding in public for their residents. It is now legal in all 50 U.S. states to breastfeed in public. Appropriately, this week also kicks off our own National Breastfeeding Month in the U.S. (http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/nbm).

Weekly themes:

  • Week 1: Policy Pulse 
    Finding Solutions: Small policy changes can go a long way toward supporting breastfeeding families
  • Week 2: Special Circumstances & Emergency Preparedness 
    Always Ready: Resources and guidance on how to manage feeding during an emergency
  • Week 3: Call to Action 
    Answering the Call: Everyone can help make breastfeeding easier
  • Week 4: Black Breastfeeding Week 
    Love on Top: On top of joy, on top of grief, on top of everything

Happy messaging! Support breastfeeding everyday!

 

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Support the best nutrition for babies everywhere: Urge your U.S. Representatives to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding!

Are you aware that representatives from the U.S. sided with commercial infant formula industry interests at the expense of babies during the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in Geneva?

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 4.48.44 PMU.S. officials at the meeting proposed the adoption of language that would have allowed this industry unrestricted ability to aggressively market breast milk substitutes as part of a WHA resolution on infant and young child feeding that included breastfeeding. Finally, the original wording of the resolution was mostly maintained. However, Ecuador had already been forced to withdraw its sponsorship of the resolution due to U.S. threats to withdraw military and commercial support if they didn’t, instilling fear in all other smaller countries of similar retaliation from the U.S. that may persist into the future. Russia stepped up at the end to sponsor the resolution because they said they support breastfeeding!

Support the best nutrition for babies everywhere.

Urge your U.S. Representatives to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding!

Act now by calling or writing your U.S. Representatives. Need the contact information for your representatives?

The issue and the circumstances are well articulated by two articles found in News Deeply and The New York Times.

For more information about IH Section’s Policy and Advocacy Committee activities, contact:
Kevin Sykes, PhD, MPH and Elizabeth Holguin, MPH, MSN, FNP-BC
APHA, International Health Section Policy and Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs

 

US opposition to UN breastfeeding resolution defies evidence and public health practice

Statement from Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018 – “We are stunned by reports of U.S. opposition to a resolution at the World Health Assembly this spring aimed at promoting breastfeeding. According to news stories, U.S. officials attempted to block a resolution encouraging breastfeeding and warning against misleading marketing by infant formula manufacturers.

“Fortunately, the resolution was adopted with few changes, but it is unconscionable for the U.S. or other government to oppose efforts that promote breastfeeding. The consequences of low rates of breastfeeding are even greater for the health of children in resource-poor countries.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective interventions for improving maternal and child health. Breastfeeding provides the best source of infant nutrition and immunologic protection. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese, and have fewer infections and improved survival during their first year of life. Breastfed infants often need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations. In addition maternal bonding is increased, a benefit to both mother and child.

“The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports breastfeeding and its many health benefits for both child and mother. The American Public Health Association has long supported exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding through at least the first year of life. APHA also strongly supports policies that encourage breastfeeding at home, maternity hospitals and birth centers and the workplace, and help identify women most in need of support of breastfeeding practices.

“In cases where mothers are unable to breastfeed, there are evidence-based solutions to protect the mom and ensure the baby thrives. The solution to malnutrition and poverty is not infant formula, but improved economic development and access to domestic and international nutrition and food programs.”

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APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at www.apha.org.

The G20 Makes Early Childhood Development a Priority

World wide roughly 200 million children under the age of five, in low and middle income countries, will fail to meet basic developmental milestones. Such deficits affect health across the lifespan, the ability to contribute to the national economy, and the ability to stop the cycle of poverty. With this knowledge in mind the United Nations made a point of linking their sustainable development goals to children’s issues, specifically early childhood development (ECD). Recently the G20, with Argentina as the new chair, have placed an emphasis on ECD in the international community by adding it to their own sustainability goals. The G20 has recognized that ECD must be incorporated into all programs, not just within child centric programs and that an emphasis must be placed on children under five years of age.

Programmatic areas have remained siloed focusing on nutrition and ensuring school aged children receive an education. While these initiatives play a role in ECD they only focus on topical areas and do not formally integrate ECD, newborn to age five, into programmatic work. The G20 has created a case for cross collaboration within programmatic and policy level work, even laying out funding streams for such work. This puts the G20 in line with World Health Organization guidelines, including guidelines around integration of ECD in emergency situations. When you are already servicing families and their children, especially in low income programmatic settings, it is easy to add in basic ECD education. For example, when providing breastfeeding support to mothers this is a wonderful opportunity to briefly discuss the need to talk and sing to the child in order to develop language acquisition. Another example is to provide pamphlets, that match the health literacy level of the community, around positive parenting and age appropriate milestones at an immunization drive.  

ECD doesn’t just apply to children – it applies directly to the child’s environment: families, caregivers, and national leadership. ECD focuses a lot on positive parenting to encourage positive brain development and language acquisition. The World Health Organization just released a guideline that discusses nurturing care within ECD, highlighting strategies and policies focusing on the environment that impacts ECD. A really interesting piece that the G20 highlights is the need for better trained child care providers. The G20 ties it back to economics – if a family, mothers in particular, feels comfortable leaving their child in the care of someone else they are able to contribute to their local and national economy in a greater way. There is also the money saving aspect for countries who invest in programs that promote ECD in children under the age of five. As discussed in the literature, children’s brains are rapidly developing arguably from in the womb through the first 1,000 days of life, and programs that focus on this age group provide a larger cost saving than programs that focus on children over five. This is because potential developmental delays are prevented, thus not as much money is needed to get a child back on their developmental track. Also, at such a young age with the focus predominantly being on environmental factors the cost is solely around training and educating front line staff, not actual school aged interventions.

Again – it is great news to have a group like G20 make ECD a priority, especially for children under five. It brings the topic back to the front of the global health stage and proves that it can be easily incorporated into programmatic work.

Achieving health equity in global health through workforce diversity

This International Women’s Day we honor the achievements of women leaders working to advance the health and well-being of people all over the world. Their path to success was certainly not easy. It was fraught with numerous challenges; challenges that are not only experienced by those of us working in global health but by women across all industries.

We are considered either too soft and feminine or too bossy and pushy to be seen as competent leaders. Our work culture lacks family-oriented, work-life balance policies which enable us to contribute to our field in significant ways. We lack female mentors to encourage us to grow and push us to overcome any obstacles we encounter in our career. We work for organizations where the people who make the big decisions on what policies and programmatic areas to focus on are men. The struggles we face trying to advance in our careers are reflected in the lack of gender equality in the global health workforce. While women make up 70% of the global health workforce, only 25% of leadership positions in global health are held by women.

We have known for a long time that when women are given equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in economic, political, and public life, everyone in society does better. Female leaders in health “promote access to contraceptives, empowerment programs for girls, women’s rights to family planning and maternity care, safe abortions, and protecting environmental assaults on children’s health.” In addition, women leaders at all levels of governance have shown to be the primary driver toward financing public goods such as health, education, hospitals, clean water, and sanitation. Women’s participation and leadership in economic, political, and public life is so critical to advancing societies that it is even written into one of the sustainable development goals. When women have a voice at all levels of decision-making, we are closer to eliminating the inequities that lead to disparities in health.

More global health organizations are recognizing the need for women leaders and organizations such as Women in Global Health are working toward achieving gender equality in global health leadership. Last year the World Health Organization’s newest Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, appointed eight women to senior leadership, effectively outnumbering the men. In doing so, he took one big leap toward achieving gender equity at the WHO – a goal that was first set in 1997 and that took two decades to realize.

Gender equality is not the only type of diversity we need to strive toward in our global health leadership however. Diversity in global health leadership must also focus on inclusion of people from different ages, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class, geography, religion, and other characteristics of personal identity.  As a woman and a first-generation Filipino-American working in global health in the United States, I often find myself at global health and public health conferences and meetings wondering why there are very few leaders that encompass the diversity that I represent on stage (and occasionally even in the audience). The people who make the decisions with the biggest impact in global health must reflect the diversity of the people we serve.  

Learning from, understanding, and seeing the world through another person’s point of view is at the heart of working in global health and a driving reason for why I chose to work in this field. In order to truly reflect the diversity of this field though, the definition of diversity itself needs to go far and beyond the characteristics of one’s personal identity. To fully be inclusive, we must also be open to learning from, understanding, and seeing the world through the perspectives of individuals in the global health workforce with diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and competencies. Our field could benefit from the ideas of diverse individuals in solving some of the world’s most pressing global health problems. These ideas cannot always come out of our own echo chambers. 

Achieving diversity in the global health workforce is everyone’s job. It requires each one of us to recognize and overcome the personal biases (whether they are subconscious or not) which prevent us from hiring and working with more diverse talent. For those of us responsible for making decisions, we must work to create policies at all levels which not only promote but require inclusion. It’s only then that we can achieve true diversity in our workforce and our leadership. It’s only then that we can progress further in achieving health equity.

Stay tuned for part two of my series on Achieving health equity in global health through workforce diversity in which I will discuss different ideas for how we can achieve diversity in the global health workforce.