New report 25 years after the launch of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative
In May 2017, a new report on the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was published by the World Health Assembly sharing a new analysis of the current status of the BFHI in countries around the world. Based on the 2nd Global Nutrition Policy Review, implemented by WHO in 2016-2017, the report presents the implementation of the initiative 25 years after its launch.
It has been estimated that the deaths of 823,000 children each year could be averted by increasing breastfeeding rates to universal levels. Nearly half of all diarrhoea episodes and one-third of respiratory infections would be prevented with breastfeeding in low and middle-income countries. Longer breastfeeding durations are associated with higher scores on intelligence tests, which translates into stronger economic success through improved academic performance, higher earning potential and productivity. Clearly, more needs to be done to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. One of the key strategies crucial in this regard is the implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative.
The report describes programme coverage, the current designation process, reasons for termination in places where the programme has been discontinued, integration of the Ten Steps into other standards and policies, and overall lessons learned. In addition, the report provides qualitative information on some of the challenges countries have faced in implementing the BFHI.
To incentivize maternity facilities to adopt the Ten Steps and recognize those that do, the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched in 1991 as a global programme. Hospitals and other maternity facilities that demonstrate adherence to each of the Ten Steps as well as compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes can be designated as a “Baby-friendly Hospital.” WHO and UNICEF have established a clear assessment procedure to evaluate the performance of each facility, with tools for sampling, interviewing mothers and staff, direct observations, and document reviews. The assessment tools provide much more detail on the specific application of each of the Ten Steps.