Children in the CNMI who are breastfed are healthier and are less likely to become overweight when they grow up, according to the results of the joint Health Pacific Child Project Survey that was conducted in the CNMI two years ago.
The survey results, which had just been released, said that children who had been breastfed had a substantially lower body mass index than children who had not been breastfed, after adjusting for age, sex, birth weight, and years of mother’s education.
DPH deputy secretary Lynn Tenorio said result backs up the DPH’s recommendation for mothers in the Commonwealth to breastfeed their babies as it provides many health benefits.
The survey was a collaborative effort among the University of Hawaii, the CNMI’s Department of Public Health, and NMC-CREES.
University of Hawaii’s Rachel Novotny, who led the conduct of the survey, said the report aimed to describe the prevalence of breastfeeding and overweight children in the CNMI, and the relationship between the two.
Based on the data, 73 percent of children surveyed were breastfed while 53 percent of them were still breastfed at six months, and 22 percent at one year of age.
Novotny said the results showed that 5 percent of children were found to be underweight, 15 percent were at risk for overweight and 19 percent were overweight, basing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention body mass index for age reference data.
Tenorio said the data shows that kids who are breastfed are in better health condition, proving that breastfeeding has greater benefits for children.
The data was obtained using a random cluster survey of 420 children, aged six months to 10 years old. It was conducted in the CNMI in June and July of 2005. Children were measured for weight and height and caregivers were asked about past feeding habits by trained investigators.
Tenorio said these findings would be used to guide program development in the CNMI, especially in promoting healthier habits among the three major islands in the CNMI.