Breastfeeding plan looks for gains


Breast-feeding has shown an upward trend over the years. However, there is a need to improve these rates to provide an impetus to child survival efforts.Towards this end, the Union health ministry rolled out a nation-wide programme – Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) – from August this year.The programme is at the preparatory phase in Maharashtra and will be launched towards the end of this month.
MAA is about intensified efforts to promote, protect and support optimal breastfeeding at the community level.
Health activists, however, say the programme needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and sensitisation of the ground staff will play a decisive role in its success.
“Every new health programme floated adds to the burden of the frontline staff which is expected to make things work at the ground level. Hence, we will have to first educate and sensitise them about the programme. If he or she is not well educated about its benefits, the programme will remain on paper,” said Abhijit More of the Jan Aarogya Abhiyaan (JAA) a network of organisations working in the field of public health.
More, who is also a medical practitioner, said, “The programme needs to be periodically audited to assess how effectively it is being implemented. Most importantly , the ground staff should not look at it as an addition to the existing burden of work. If this hap pens, they will only tend to ensure good paper work and this will defeat the entire purpose of launching the programme.”
Activist Sanjay Dabhade said, “The success of any government programme depends on how well it percolates to the last beneficiary. Not just the health staff, but all other stakeholders, including local gram panchayat officials and politicians also need to be sensitised about the programme’s benefits.” MAA has taken these aspects into consideration and hence worked out various modules and training workshops for the ground staff.
Vandana Gurnani, joint secretary of Union ministry of health and family welfare, said, “Dedicated funds have been allocated for the MAA programme. A range of resource materials has been developed after series of expert deliberations at the national level in terms of training modules and information, education and communication materials.”
C K Mishra, secretary , Union ministry for health and family welfare, said, “Health facilities must aim for high rates of early initiation of breastfeeding through capacity building of nurses and supportive supervision.”
“Under the MAA programme, community health workers accredited social health workers (ASHA) – will be incentivized for reaching out to pregnant and lactating mothers for advocating ideal breastfeeding practices in the community ,” Mishra said.
Archana Patil, additional director (family welfare) of the state health department, said, “Our focus is definitely on educating the ground staff. We are preparing the sensitisations modules for nurses and community health workers. The MAA programme will be launched in Maharashtra by the end of this month.”
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