HC Deb 29 October 2001 vol 373 cc553-4W
Mr. Beith

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he has taken to ensure the promotion of breastfeeding in health regions; and when he will publish the results of the study his Department is conducting into barriers to breastfeeding in low income groups. [9425]

Jacqui Smith

The infant feeding initiative was launched in May 1999 with an aim to increase the incidence and duration of breastfeeding among those groups of the population where breastfeeding rates are lowest. Two infant feeding advisers were appointed part-time, one a health visitor and one a midwife to act as a focus for developing and implementing strategies for promoting breastfeeding these lower socio-economic groups, and to support the national network of breastfeeding co-ordinators at a regional level.

A total budget of nearly £3 million over three years from the Public Health Development Fund has been allocated for this initiative. This is more money than had previously been spent on breastfeeding promotion and reflects our commitment to health inequalities that was highlighted by the Acheson Report and has since been reconfirmed with the NHS Plan commitment for increased support for breastfeeding.

A total of 79 best breastfeeding practice projects have been funded across all regions. The aim is to increase the rates of breastfeeding, both initiation and duration. A summary of the first wave of 31 of these projects is being printed and will be available shortly. Copies of the summary report will be distributed to all health regions and organisations involved in the best breastfeeding practice projects. Increasing the incidence and duration of breastfeeding is a goal shared by all Sure Start initiatives and several health action zone programmes. Many of the best breastfeeding practice projects have now obtained mainstream funding from Sure Start initiatives.

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