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Global health policies that support the use of banked donor human milk: a human rights issue

DOI: 10.1186/1746-4358-1-26

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Abstract:

Donor milk banking thrives in countries such as Brazil, where there has been a concerted effort at the Health Ministry level to incorporate milk banks into health policy [1]. Its prime mover, Dr. Joao Aprigio Guerra de Almeida, has been honored with the prestigious WHO Sasekawa prize for making an important contribution to his country's overall health by establishing a network of donor human milk banks [2,3]. In countries where donor milk banking is protected, promoted, and supported as an extension of national breastfeeding policies, milk banking is considered a reasonable and effective part of health care delivery for infants and children.Premature infants who are fed infant formula have a higher risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) than when they are fed human milk, either mother's own milk or banked donor milk [4-6]. In this regard, donor milk banking could be considered preventive "medicine" in the premature population; by reducing the incidence of NEC and optimizing central nervous system development, the premature infant has a better start in life than he would have if fed premature infant formula. The argument has been made [7] that these infants become more productive members of society as adults if their health and neurological potential are maximized through optimal nutrition and appropriate health care from the start. This argument is made despite a general lack of published research on the efficacy of banked human milk because in many parts of the world there is a general belief that human milk in any form is superior to manufactured infant formulas. This is contrary to the pervading philosophy among many health care providers, especially in the US, that infant formula and human milk are equivalent.If donor milk banking has been incorporated into national public health policy and regulation, (such as France [8,9], Germany [10,11], and the Scandinavian countries [12]) and/or in other countries with socialized medicine, such as Canada and Gr

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