Committee on Promotion of Breastfeeding convenes eighth meeting (with photos)
During the meeting, representatives of the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) reported to members of the Committee the works of the Government to support breastfeeding in the past five years. These included, at the legislation level, amendments to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance which prohibits discrimination against and harassment towards breastfeeding women, the implementation of five-day statutory paternity leave and extension of statutory maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks. In addition, the Government has imposed a mandatory requirement for the provision of babycare facilities and lactation rooms (LRs) in the sale conditions of government land sale sites for new commercial developments in 2017. As of April this year, the Government has included relevant clauses in the sale conditions in over 20 government land sales sites for new commercial developments, of which four sites have already been awarded to developer.
Corresponding measures have also been adopted by the Government to mandate the provision of babycare facilities and LRs in new Government premises. As of December last year, there were 360 babycare facilities in government properties. Furthermore, in order to foster a culture for a breastfeeding-friendly environment, the FHB and the DH have collaborated with the Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations Children's Fund to launch the "Say Yes to Breastfeeding" campaign since 2015, to allow lactating mothers to sustain breastfeeding in community-friendly environment. Over 1 300 workplaces and 470 premises have pledged to be breastfeeding-friendly in support of this campaign. The DH also issued guidelines for employers and employees in 2017 on the establishment of a breastfeeding-friendly workplace for reference by the public and corporations.
Professional support from healthcare institutions also helps enhance parents' awareness in assuring the benefits of breastfeeding. Among the eight public hospitals with labour wards under the HA, six of them have been accredited as Baby-Friendly Hospitals (BFHs), while such recognition for the remaining two hospitals will be completed next year. Regarding the Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) of the DH, three of them have already been acknowledged as Baby-Friendly MCHCs from July to August 2019, and the accreditation process for the other five has also commenced. The accreditation programme will be extended to all MCHCs by phases in future.
The DH has subsidised non-governmental organisations since 2015 to provide peer support services to breastfeeding mothers. Since the launch of the programme, over 140 local mothers have completed their training and become peer counsellors. During the COVID-19 epidemic, online antenatal courses have been conducted by the DH to provide health advice to breastfeeding mothers via the online platform. The programme has also strengthened the breastfeeding peer support and assistance to lactating mothers via non-face-to-face channels. Furthermore, the DH, the HA and relevant stakeholders also enhanced multi-sectoral collaboration and partnership to protect, promote and support breastfeeding through the celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week as well as other educational and promotional activities.
At the meeting, the Committee also discussed the community projects and researches relevant to breastfeeding, and inappropriate marketing practices for formula milk products targeting infants and young children. In 2019, the FHB subsidised the School of Nursing of the University of Hong Kong to conduct a community project for fostering breastfeeding-friendly environment and supporting lactating mothers. A mobile application named "Breastfeeding GPS" was developed under the Project to assist lactating mothers to locate some 430 babycare facilities across the city with the aid of the Global Positioning System (GPS).
In respect of the sales practices for formula milk, the Government launched the Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Formula Milk and Related Products and Food Products for Infants and Young Children (HK Code) in 2017. Under the HK Code, guidance on the marketing and advertising of formula milk, related products and food for infants and children aged below 36 months old were provided to relevant sectors including traders, healthcare workers and institutions, as well as childcare workers and childcare institutions that are involved in infant and young children's nutrition.
A market study was conducted by the DH in 2019 with regard to the implementation of the HK Code. The study revealed that the total number of media advertisements for promoting formula milk products targeting infants and young children aged below 36 months contributed to 8.6 per cent, a significant decrease as compared with the result of a similar study in which the relevant percentage was 45 per cent in 2016. Advertising expenditure on promoting formula milk products targeting infants and young children in Hong Kong also dropped from $3.1 billion in 2015 to $2.1 billion in 2019, while the proportion of the advertising expenditure for formula milk products targeting infants and young children under 36 months old plunged from 93.5 per cent in 2015 to 9.5 per cent in 2019.
The Government will continue to encourage the trade to comply with the HK Code, and to formulate sales practices in line with it. The Government will also review the existing regulatory arrangements on the composition, nutrition and health claims for relevant formula products targeting infants and young children to formulate legislative proposals, with a view to further protecting the health of infants and young children and supporting breastfeeding.
Under the active promotion of the Government and the Committee, the local breastfeeding rate has been on a steady rise over the past 20 years. The breastfeeding rate on hospital discharge has increased from 55 per cent in 2000 to 87 per cent in 2020. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding rate till four months of age increased from eight per cent in 2000 to 26 per cent in 2020. The Government will continue to work closely with the Committee and members of the community to further promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
The Committee was set up in April 2014 and chaired by the Under Secretary for Food and Health. Members include representatives from relevant healthcare professionals, representatives of the academia and organisations that have participated in promoting breastfeeding. The Committee is responsible for providing constructive recommendations and supervising the strategies and action plans which further strengthen the promotion, protection and support for breastfeeding, with a view to enhancing the sustainability of breastfeeding and advocating breastfeeding as the mainstream babycare mode which is widely accepted by the general public.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Issued at HKT 23:45
Issued at HKT 23:45