Jamaica News: Three more hospitals in the public health system have been officially certified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness as ‘Baby Friendly’, under the Ministry’s National Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
These are Lionel Town Hospital in Clarendon, Port Antonio Hospital, Portland and Port Maria Hospital, St. Mary. There are now five baby-friendly public health facilities.
The other two are the Alexandria Community Hospital in St. Ann, which was certified in April 2018, and the Princess Margaret Hospital in St. Thomas, which received certification in September 2015.
The initiative aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a healthcare environment that supports breastfeeding. It provides a framework that enables mothers to acquire the skills they need to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, followed by complementary foods and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
In his address at the National BFHI certification ceremony and launch of the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Network on Tuesday (December 3), at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, commended the nurses and staff of the certified institutions for their tireless work in meeting the standards of certification set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The nurses and staff of these institutions work tirelessly for months, sometimes years to meet the standards of certification. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has charged our health facilities, which are the immediate and optimal service providers for prenatal and postpartum care, to manipulate their processes and aesthetics to make the facility baby-friendly, being guided by outlines stipulated by the World Health Organization,” the Minister said.
The WHO guidelines provide a 10-step outlay to successful breastfeeding. Each step provides a list of criteria that have to be met by the facility.
The assessment process includes training of staff and mothers, a report on the training, followed by an interview with staff and mothers who receive care from the facility.
Dr. Tufton said 14 other hospitals are currently working to join these five facilities as baby-friendly certified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Meanwhile, Country Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Mariko Kagoshima, said UNICEF is proud of the work it has undertaken with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and its regional authorities and hospitals that have been officially recognised as baby-friendly.
She pointed out that the international standards captured in the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding have been proven to significantly improve exclusive breastfeeding rates in the country and the associated positive developmental benefits of breastfeeding to babies.
“Studies have shown that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life significantly boosts a baby’s immune system. As we tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and seek to improve the nutrition of Jamaica’s children, we know we must engage at the very beginning of life,” she said.
The ceremony also featured presentation of plaques to the North Eastern Regional Health Authority, which was recognised for excellence in the implementation of the BFHI, and to the Western Regional Health Authority, for excellence in the promotion of breastfeeding during National Breastfeeding Week 2019.
Meanwhile, the Manchester Health Department was recognised for excellence in the establishment of Infant and Young Child Feeding support groups. There are 38 support groups islandwide.
The BFHI was launched in 1991 as a global campaign to prepare health systems and mobilise healthcare workers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.