Code for hospitals to boost breastfeeding should not be delayed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 10:59pm

I refer to the report, “HK hospital gets first baby-friendly award” (August 28). Queen Elizabeth Hospital “started the accreditation process in 2013” so it is a case of better late than never. This is indeed a milestone in Hong Kong, when there are already more than 20,000 designated baby-friendly hospitals worldwide since the World Health Organisation/Unicef Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative started over two decades ago.

In 2013, the government completed a public consultation on the draft “Hong Kong Code of Marketing and Quality of Formula Milk and Related Products, and Food Products for Infants and Young Children”.

This Hong Kong code aimed to regulate marketing practices of products that are detrimental to breastfeeding. One of the major findings of the public consultation, whether in support of the code or not, was that the code in itself was not enough to support and protect mothers to breastfeed. A multi-pronged approach is required.

Under the leadership of the Food and Health Bureau, with efforts of the Hospital Authority and, not the least, hospitals themselves, all public hospitals with maternity units now have a time frame to comply with the WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and be designated as baby-friendly hospitals by 2020.

Further, through partnership with non-governmental organisations and the community, efforts have also been made to promote breastfeeding-friendly workplaces and premises.

This year, the WHO titled its biennial World Health Assembly resolution on maternal, infant and young child nutrition “Ending inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children”. This was accompanied by technical guidance that clarifies many of the issues covered by the original WHO International Code on Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant resolutions. The government should delay the implementation of the Hong Kong code no longer.

A Hong Kong code is required to complement all the other efforts made to protect breastfeeding.

The health of our mothers and our children, and therefore of our community, is at stake.

Patricia Ip, vice-chairman, Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association