IPH work on defined aspects of maternal, infant and child health.
IPH supports the Departments of Health on policy issues relevant to enhancing maternal and child health and reducing inequalities in child health outcomes. IPH contributes to breastfeeding policy, research and practice across the island of Ireland.
- Northern Ireland
Breastfeeding – A great start – A Strategy for Northern Ireland 2013-2023 aims to protect, promote, support, and normalise breastfeeding so that women are able to make informed decisions and are supported to breastfeed; infants are increasingly fed exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life and, thereafter are fed complementary foods with continued breastfeeding.
IPH supports the implementation of the strategy through its contribution to the Breastfeeding Research Workstrand, a subgroup of the Breastfeeding Strategy Implementation Steering Group. IPH is also represented on the Child Development Project Board Research Workstrand to ensure rigorous evaluation of interventions and a robust programme of research related to the child development programme.
The group recently completed a systematic review of the interventions in the UK and Ireland to increase the initiation of breastfeeding. A paper has been prepared and submitted to BMC Pregnancy & childbirth for publication.
- Republic of Ireland
In October 2017, IPH published a report presenting a summary of strategies and current data on breastfeeding across the island of Ireland. The report also presents an overview of evidence on the contribution of breastfeeding to population health and on effective measures to support and enable breastfeeding. Some of the key findings:
- Breastfeeding rates in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have increased slowly over the last ten years.
- Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding within the UK.
- Breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland are lower than those of the Republic of Ireland and the gap has increased over time.
In 2013/4 IPH completed an extensive review of the implementation of breastfeeding policy in the Republic of Ireland which informed the direction of Breastfeeding in a Healthy Ireland - Health Service Breastfeeding Action Plan 2016 – 2021. The action plan sets out the priority areas to be addressed over the next 5 years to enhance breastfeeding supports and to enable more mothers in Ireland to breastfeed.
In 2016, IPH produced the consultation report on the development of Creating a Better Future Together - National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026. The vision of the Strategy is that women and babies have access to safe, high quality care in a setting most appropriate to their needs; that they are placed at the centre of all services, and treated with dignity, respect and compassion; and parents are supported before, during and after pregnancy to allow them give their child the best possible start in life.
In addition, IPH contribute to the RoI Department of Health Working Group on a Folic Acid Policy which is examining policy options to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in Ireland. The first report of the group will be submitted for the Ministers considerations in 2018.
Other policy team programmes of work also have a significant interface with maternal and child health, including our work on smoking and second-hand smoke and our work on obesity and alcohol.
Contact Person: Joanna Purdy