GHS calls on media to intensify education on exclusive breastfeeding

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Accra, Sept. 25, GNA – Participants at a health seminar in Accra have expressed concern that some inappropriate marketing practices by some baby food companies are undermining infant health in the country.

     They said this is due to the fact that some enticing and unsuspecting advertisement on infant formulas could prevent lactating mothers from making well informed choices.

     They said though various advocacy and policies including the exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of infant life has been ongoing over the past few years, the successes chalked in that regard seem to be consistently obstructed by some unapproved marketing behaviour of some baby food companies.

     Mrs Charlotte Acquah, Maternal and Child Health Consultant, addressing a seminar on breastfeeding for media practitioners on Tuesday, said there has been instances where some infant food companies use attractive packaging and enticing advertising strategies like giving discounts to buyers, newspaper, magazines and coupons advertisements to create erroneous impressions.

     She said such prohibited strategies of the infant food companies contravenes the Legislative Instrument 1667 which among other things prohibits advertisement of baby formulas and any other form of breast milk supplements.

     “In some instances this prevents women from making informed choices”, she said, and urged the media to support the global initiative on exclusive breastfeeding by intensifying their reportage and providing adequate information to the society.

    The Seminar which was organized by the Family Health Division of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) is aimed at intensifying media advocacy and education on the importance and advantages of breast milk over other infant supplements.

     It would also help update the knowledge of media practitioners on current recommendations on breastfeeding and equip them with better advocacy skills on infant and young child feeding.

     Mrs Acquah explained that Ghana has made some gains since its adopting of the WHO/UNICEF strategy on exclusive breastfeeding and intends to sustain these gains by intensifying education on its benefits.

     She explained that the LI 1667 does not ban the sale and use of baby milk supplements and does not compel women to breastfeed against their will, but it protects the minority of infants who might need artificial feeding.

     She said it also ensures that labels carry appropriate warnings and the correct instrumentation for preparation so that they are prepared in a safe manner and ensure that choice of products is impartial, scientific and protects the users health among other things among other things.

     Ms Veronica Gomez, Infant and Young Child Feeding Consultant, said human breast milk provides ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants and it has been recommended by the WHO that infant are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives.

     She said human milk contains a perfect amount of nutrients which are easily digested and efficiently used by the body and protects the infant against infection.

     “The first human breast milk known as the Colostrum, is rich in antibodies which protects the child against infections, diarrhea, allergies, serves as purgative, rich in vitamin A and help in the maturity of the intestine,” she said.

     Ms Gomez explained that apart from its numerous nutritional benefits, breastfeeding also promotes bonding as well as help in the physical, psychological and emotional and mental development the child.

     She stressed that exclusive breastfeeding for first six months also delays new pregnancy and protect the mother’s health in terms of diseases such as breast and ovarian cancers.

     Ms Gomez advised against the introduction of infant formulas at the first six months of an infant’s life, stressing that records have shown adverse effects such as obesity, increased risk of some chronic diseases, lower scores on intelligence tests and increased risk of anemia among other things.

     Ms Eunice Sackey, Coordinator, Breastfeeding Hospital Initiative, explained that the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding which was developed by the WHO and UNICEF to revitalize world attention on the impact that feeding practice have on infant and young children, has been responsible directly and indirectly for over 50 percent of the 10.6 million deaths annually among children under five years.

     She said the strategy although not binding on government, carries a moral and professional force and has persuasive authority that requires a follow up on previous targets and which now introduces new targets which include the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of comprehensive policy on infant and young child feeding.

     She urged society to support all forms of initiatives that would ensure the health of children.

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