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The present study describes the main actions in Finnish nutrition policy during the past decades. The main actor is the National Nutrition Council, which provides nutritional recommendations and action programmes, and sets up expert groups to solve nutritional problems in the population. The main fortification programmes have been the iodization of table salt, supplementation of selenium to fertilizers and the vitamin D fortification programme. As an example of national legislation, labelling the salt content of foods is described. Finnish nutrition policy is based on a good monitoring system of nutrition and risk factors of chronic diseases, as well as active epidemiological research. However, the authorities have not often taken proposed fiscal measures seriously but have instead considered agricultural and economic policies more important than health policy.
To assess progress in the protection, promotion and support of breast-feeding in Europe.
Data for 2002 and 2007 were gathered with the same questionnaire. Of thirty countries, twenty-nine returned data for 2002, twenty-four for 2007.
The number of countries with national policies complying with WHO recommendations increased. In 2007, six countries lacked a national policy, three a national plan, four a national breast-feeding coordinator and committee. Little improvement was reported in pre-service training; however, the number of countries with good coverage in the provision of WHO/UNICEF courses for in-service training increased substantially, as reflected in a parallel increase in the number of Baby Friendly Hospitals and the proportion of births taking place in them. Little improvement was reported as far as implementation of the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is concerned. Except for Ireland and the UK, where some improvement occurred, no changes were reported on maternity protection. Due to lack of standard methods, it was difficult to compare rates of breast-feeding among countries. With this in mind, slight improvements in the rates of initiation, exclusivity and duration were reported by countries where data at two points in time were available.
Breast-feeding rates continue to fall short of global recommendations. National policies are improving slowly but are hampered by the lack of action on maternity protection and the International Code. Pre-service training and standard monitoring of breast-feeding rates are the areas where more efforts are needed to accelerate progress.
To study how individual and regional characteristics might explain regional variations in breast-feeding rates in maternity units and to identify outlier regions with very low or high breast-feeding rates.
Individual characteristics (mother and infant) were collected during hospital stay. All newborns fed entirely or partly on breast milk were considered breast-fed. Regional characteristics were extracted from census data. Statistical analysis included multi-level models and estimation of empirical Bayes residuals to identify outlier regions.
All births in all administrative regions in France in 2003.
A national representative sample of 13 186 live births.
Breast-feeding rates in maternity units varied from 43 % to 80 % across regions. Differences in the distribution of individual characteristics accounted for 55 % of these variations. We identified two groups of regions with the lowest and highest breast-feeding rates, after adjusting for individual-level characteristics. In addition to maternal occupation and nationality, the social characteristics of regions, particularly the population’s educational level and the percentage of non-French residents, were significantly associated with breast-feeding rates.
Social characteristics at both the individual and regional levels influence breast-feeding rates in maternity units. Promotion policies should be directed at specific regions, groups within the community and categories of mothers to reduce the gaps and increase the overall breast-feeding rate.