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Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition

Helen Yewdall, the Scottish Government’s Maternal and Infant Nutrition Co-ordinator, recently provided CFHS with an update on this key policy’s implementation:

Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action was launched by the Scottish Government in January 2011, alongside a raft of policies and frameworks aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of parents, children and families across Scotland.

 The Scottish Government recognises the vital importance of good nutrition before conception, throughout pregnancy and in the early years of a child’s life.  Our vision is that 

  • Women entering pregnancy are a healthy weight, in good nutritional health and that this continues throughout their pregnancy and beyond.
  • All parents receive full information they can understand on infant feeding to enable them to make an informed choice on how they will feed their infant.
  • All women receive the support they need to initiate and continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish.
  • Infants are given appropriate and timely complementary foods and continue to have a wide and varied healthy diet throughout early childhood.

However, the Framework clearly underlines the fact these ambitions cannot be delivered by any agency or organisation in isolation. The challenge of improving nutrition for mothers and young children in Scotland will need every organisation to work together.   

As well as providing up to date information on the diet and nutrition of mothers and young children in Scotland, and research based recommendations for improvement, the framework document sets out actions to be taken by the Scottish Government, NHS Boards, local authorities, community groups and others to help improve the nutrition of pregnant women, babies and young children.  

These actions include activities designed to improve the knowledge and skills of staff working to support families, improve communication of crucial messages on nutrition, and provide practical support for families to encourage good nutrition.   

Progress on the Framework is being monitored by the Implementation Group.  Recent reports demonstrate that Health Boards and other organisations across Scotland are working together to deliver nutrition information to parents in the antenatal period, help to initiate and maintain breastfeeding, and provide support for parents to access and use healthier food for their young children.  The involvement of community food initiatives and third sector organisations in many areas of Scotland is vital to the success of this work, and further partnership work is strongly encouraged.  

Work is also well on the way to develop the education and training resources needed to improve the skills and knowledge of the diverse workforce supporting parents and children in Scotland.  This work is being led by NHS Education Scotland and NHS  Health Scotland and is building on a number of excellent training resources already in use in many areas.    

Another very important area of progress is in implementation of UNICEF UK Baby Friendly status.  Achievement of Baby Friendly Awards is a key part of the Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework, and every NHS Board in Scotland is working toward achieving and maintaining Baby Friendly status in both hospital and community settings.  The Scottish Government has funded a full time UNICEFUKprofessional officer for three years as well as providing financial support to help all NHS Boards to achieve these prestigious awards. This has been reflected in the progress made so far nationally. 70% of all births in Scotland take place in Baby Friendly accredited hospitals in comparison to 17% in England. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were recently the first health authority in the United Kingdom to have achieved full accreditation throughout all maternity units as well as across every community health partnership.  

Improving maternal and infant nutrition across Scotland will require effective and sustained partnership working to deliver for parents and children.  We look forward to future progress.



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