BREASTFEEDING and family planning services are critical to achieving the Philippines’ Sustainable Development Goals in poverty, nutrition, and good health, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell Ubial stressed at the annual Breastfeeding and Family Planning Summit held by the Department of Health (DOH) last Thursday.
Ubial emphasized the significance of exclusive breastfeeding from birth up to the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feeding 6 months and beyond, as an evidence-based lifesaving intervention known to reduce newborn and under-five child deaths. Breastfeeding also assures that infants receive the most appropriate nutrition to help them reach optimum growth and development in the first 1,000 days of life, the health secretary added.
The Breastfeeding and Family Planning Summit highlighted the theme Breastfeeding and Family Planning: Keys to Sustainable Development, and sought to highlight the significance of these in achieving well-being through their impact on infant, child, and woman’s health.
DOH statistics showed that only 24.7 percent of infants reaching 6 months are being exclusively breastfed, and Ubial added that this is believed to contribute to infant deaths worldwide. The DOH follows the 2012 World Health Assembly Resolution, she explained, which aims to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months to at least 50 percent by 2025.
So far, the health secretary pointed out, the DOH has succeeded in increasing breastfeeding during the first hour after birth with an accomplishment rate of 67 percent as of 2014. In addition, the country also achieved a 70 percent rate of implementation of “Unang Yakap” or Essential Newborn Protocol Care to ensure the survival of newborns through time-bound interventions within the first hour of their lives, including breastfeeding initiation.
The health chief added that aside from nutrition and health benefits to babies, exclusive breastfeeding is also a modern, natural method for birth spacing. Women who plan their future are able to provide proper nutrition, education, and health to themselves and to their families.
Family planning focus
As one of the priorities of the Philippine Health Agenda, the Family Planning Program of DOH is consolidating its strategies on reproductive health services to make it more accessible to women and couples, Ubial explained. Women and couples have the opportunity to plan for their future and provide a healthy and prosperous environment for themselves and their families, she added.
While there has been a steady increase of contraceptive use among married women from 49 percent in 2003 to 55 percent in 2013 according to 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, only 38 percent of these women use modern methods, Ubial said. 18 percent of married women are also classified as having unmet need for family planning, with seven percent wanting to delay their pregnancy and 11 percent not wanting more children.
As with breastfeeding, focus on family planning as an important development and public health matter should be increased to advance reproductive health care services for women, with special focus on providing information on the options and services that are available to them, the health chief said.
“Under this administration we continue to advocate the rights of women, children and families to ensure that their needs to life and survival will be given the corresponding financial support, governance, and leadership. Together, we will work in attaining our vision of All for Health towards Health for All,” Secretary Ubial concluded.