The Alexandria Community Hospital located in St. Ann has become Jamaica’s second medical institution to be accredited as a Baby-Friendly Hospital (BFH).
The facility, which offers outpatient and maternity services, joins the Princess Margret Hospital, having been accredited by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on April 12.
Speaking at the accreditation ceremony held on the grounds of the hospital, Minister of Health, Dr the Hon. Christopher Tufton, commended the team for the work they did to achieve the status.
“You have set yourself a target, you have worked towards that target and you have achieved. To get that kind of approval rating by an international, multilateral partner means that you are not just local, you are global in terms of your scope, in terms of your potential and in terms of your contribution in this area to public health. You are meeting standards that others only dream to meet,” he said.
Dr Tufton noted that the designation of the Hospital as ‘Baby-Friendly’ represents the Ministry’s thrust of improving and building healthier communities by building healthier individuals.
“We have to take better care and give better attention to our very young because all the research shows that from they are conceived… that early stage of their development is fundamental to provide for them the protection and nutrients that will help them in their development in a proper way,” he noted.
The Health Minister also pointed out that ‘baby-friendly’ includes the health of the mother, which he says is instantly improved the moment she decides to breastfeed her child.
“The breast is still the best… . The studies all show that breastfeeding improves your capacity and your child’s capacity to fight against lifestyle-related diseases. Your own health status is improved when you feed your child the breast milk. In fact, the studies suggest that cervical cancer, breast cancer… you are slightly more vulnerable to those things if you miss or ignore the opportunity to provide breastfeeding, when you are in a position to do so,” he explained.
Minister Tufton also underscored the importance of the partnership with UNICEF in building public health within communities and the country at large.
“As a country, going forward, we are going to have to embrace the strategies and the approaches that seize partnerships; we are going to have to recommit our own resources as a country and as a people to recognising that we have to equip ourselves to give our people the best possible chance to flourish and to do well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton has committed to having at least nine more facilities accredited as BFH by the end of the financial year.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched in 1991 as a global campaign to prepare health systems and mobilise healthcare workers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
The initiative aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a healthcare environment that supports breastfeeding as the norm.
It, therefore, provides a framework that enables mothers to acquire the skills they need to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months (180 completed days), followed by complementary foods and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
A baby-friendly facility also assists mothers who are not breastfeeding to make informed decisions and care for their babies in the best possible way.