Improving maternal and infant nutrition: a framework for action

Actions which can be taken by NHS Boards, local authorities and others to improve the nutrition of pregnant women, babies and young children.

Ministerial Foreword

The Scottish Government wants to ensure that all children have the best possible start to life, are ready to succeed and live longer, healthier lives. To help achieve this we have developed this Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework for Action which is aimed at a wide variety of organisations with a role in improving maternal and infant nutrition in Scotland.

Improving maternal and infant nutrition cannot be achieved in isolation; it must be seen in a broader context of improving health and wellbeing across the whole Scottish population. Although there has been national and international focus on promoting and supporting breastfeeding for a number of years, there has not been the same focus on improving the nutrition of mothers during pregnancy, nor the nutrition of young children beyond milk feeding. This Framework for action stresses the importance of concentrating efforts on the early years and targeting those in need, to ensure that health outcomes for children are improved and health inequalities reduced.

The scale of the measures required means that change will not happen overnight; a long term view is required, therefore the Action Plan contained within the Framework covers a minimum period of ten years. Clearly, the outcomes cannot be achieved without effective and sustained partnership working between all statutory and voluntary organisations, so the actions that have been identified should be seen as relevant to all sectors.

There is considerable evidence to demonstrate the short and long term benefits of breastfeeding to both mothers and infants and this is likely to lead to a reduced need for NHS services in later life. Breastfeeding rates are low in Scotland and have been relatively static for the last decade. It is important to embed work to address this within wider work to improve health in the early years which will have a positive effect throughout the life of an individual.

In developing this framework, the Maternal and Infant Nutrition Strategy Group brought together a variety of organisations with wide representation including Royal Colleges, NHS Boards, including special NHS Boards, local authorities and the community and voluntary sector. The framework has been developed based on the principles outlined in Better Health, Better Care, Getting it Right for Every Child and the NHS Healthcare Quality Strategy.

Strong leadership and local champions at every level will form an essential element to the success of the strategy. In order to achieve success, there may be a need to reprioritise resources and refocus efforts on the very early years.

An outcomes framework identifying short, medium and long term outcomes has been developed together with a set of indicators for each outcome and these will be essential components in measuring our success.

SHONA ROBISON MSP, Minister for Public Health and Sport

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