Thursday, December 9, 2010

HHS releases Healthy People 2020, adds new breastfeeding objectives

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases an update to its Healthy People objectives every 10 years. The document lists a number of objectives for improving the health of Americans, establishes benchmarks and targets for each, and tracks progress toward new goals.

This month Healthy People 2020 was released. The statement features updated goals for a total of 42 topics related to health. One of these topics is Maternal, Infant, and Child Health, which included four breastfeeding objectives.

The first objective is carried over from Healthy People 2010, and updated with new targets for initiation and duration rates:

MICH-21 Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed

The chart below shows the five sub-objectives, and how the new goals compare to our current baseline in the U.S.

The additional three breastfeeding objectives are new to Healthy People. I was excited that the HHS pinpointed these issues because each is a serious barrier that can quickly undermine a mom's breastfeeding goals:

MICH-22 Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support programs
  • Baseline: 25 percent of employers reported providing an on-site lactation/mother’s room in 2009
  • Target: 38 percent
MICH-23 Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first two days of life
  • Baseline: 25.6 percent of breastfed newborns born in 2006 received formula supplementation within the first two days of life as reported in 2007–09
  • Target: 15.6 percent
MICH-24 Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies
  • Baseline: 2.9 percent of 2007 live births occurred in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies as reported in 2009
  • Target: 8.1 percent
I blogged about how the U.S. had performed against the objectives set in Healthy People 2010 back in September. The CDC published its 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card, and the results weren't great. The only category where the U.S. made the grade was initiation, given that three out of every four new mothers in the United States tries breastfeeding. This met the Healthy People 2010 national objective.

Otherwise, we didn't make much progress. I hope that the addition of three more crucial breastfeeding objectives will help us move the needle in terms of duration and exclusivity rates. While feeding an infant any breastmilk at all is better than none, the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby increase the longer the pair nurses. And exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months has been shown to offer better protection against infections in babies.

It will be a few years before we have updated statistics from the CDC to see how far we've come, but you can be sure I'll be analyzing our progress right here when the time comes. What do you think? Are the objectives above on target? Is there another you would have added?


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