Priests should promote breastfeeding, WHO official says

Addressing a meeting of Philippines Catholic bishops, World Health Organisation official Dr Shigeru Omi said that priests and ministers could play an effective role in reducing infant mortality by promoting breastfeeding among their congregations.

Catholic Online reports that Dr Shigeru Omi, director for the Western Pacific region for the World Health Organisation, told Filipino bishops that the Catholic Church has an important role in play in promoting mothers' return to breastfeeding in a Filipino society where milk substitutes have gained a stronghold due to aggressive advertising campaigns.

"The church is still very influential in many societies and it could help our advocacy," Dr Shigeru said.

The Church can inform families people that breastfeeding is "very, very effective in the health development of children not only biologically but also mentally", as breastfeeding helps "develop the bond between mother and child", he added.

"The church through its priests and ministers can inform everyone in their congregation that breastfeeding is the most effective intervention to promote the healthy development of children," he said.

In a related development, Stephen Atwood, UNICEF regional Health and Nutrition Adviser for East Asia and the Pacific, said the Philippines government has made only a very low government investment in health services, noting that it has allocated a mere percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health.

"From 2000 to 2004 data, the Philippines is the third lowest in East Asia and the Pacific region, behind Myanmar and Indonesia," he said, noting that, of the country's national budget, "only 1 percent is allocated to health and 11 percent is allocated to education".

Both WHO and UNICEF recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding for best infant growth, development and health.

However, most Filipina mothers breastfeed for less than 24 days on the average according to the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey which showed a significant reduction from 1.4 months noted in the 1998 survey.

It has been reported that a child-mortality rate of 16,000 per year in the Philippines is largely due to inappropriate feeding.

UNICEF said a formula-fed infant is 14.2 times more likely to die of diarrhea than a breastfed infant.

Catholic Church urged to help promote breastfeeding campaign (Catholic Online, 28/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Breastfeeding Association
World Health Organisation

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29 Jun 2007