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Good health starts before birth say midwives on new Northern Ireland child health report from Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

14 June, 2017

Good health starts before birth say midwives on new Northern Ireland child health report from Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

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Today the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has published its State of Child Health – Northern Ireland report. The report brings together data for the first time on 25 measures of child health including risk factors such as obesity and low breastfeeding rates.

Commenting on the report, Breedagh Hughes, Director for Northern Ireland at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome report that outlines that challenges we face in Northern Ireland to improve the health of our children and young people. This report does not outline things that it would be useful to do; it outlines things that Northern Ireland must do.

“Good health starts before birth, indeed it starts before conception.  Improving the health of our adults will improve the health of our children which will ultimately lead to a country of healthier adults. This will mean fewer illnesses, less suffering and in the long run will save the struggling health services money.

“There is rightly a focus in the report on breastfeeding. Northern Ireland has the worst breastfeeding rates in the UK.*If we can improve rates of breastfeeding and increase the time mothers do this for, we can help to improve the health of both mother and baby.

“Reducing smoking generally but in pregnancy in particular is another area that could improve the health of babies. Smoking in pregnancy is particular is associated with increased rates of stillbirth for example.

“There is also a pressing need to tackle the worrying levels of inequality in our society. It is the poorer and more marginalised in our communities who tend to have the poorer health, so investment in reducing inequality must go hand in hand with efforts to improve public health.

“Midwives have a crucial role to play in improving public health for women and their babies, so it is vital that there are enough of them to support and advise women making changes to their lifestyles to improve the health of themselves and their children.”

*2010 Infant Feeding Survey - The initial breastfeeding rate in 2010 was highest in England at 83% (compared with 74% in Scotland, 71% in Wales, and 64% in Northern Ireland). Exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks was 24% in England and 22% in Scotland, compared to 17% in Wales and 13% in Northern Ireland.

To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456, or email pressofficer@rcm.org.uk.

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Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.

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