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Through ongoing monitoring of progress in the area
of pregnancy and childbirth, developing resources that target at-risk
groups and collaborating with other agencies to effect change in attitudes
and behaviours related to pregnancy and birth, CICH has helped ensure
children receive the healthiest possible start in life.
A healthy start includes the birth process
itself. We now know that a minimally-invasive, family-centred approach
to childbirth is best for both mother and baby. However, it is only
since the mid-1970s that views of childbirth have changed. What was
once a clinical procedure has now become a family-centred experience.
action and impact
CICH has played a key role in implementing this change
by conducting national surveys, coordinating expert working groups on
maternal and newborn care and disseminating the groups' findings.
CICH's efforts have led to family-centred guidelines for the standard
of maternal and newborn care, including Family-Centred Maternity
and Newborn Care: National Guidelines (1987, 2000). This places
the family back at the centre of the birth process and newborn period,
and contributes to a supportive, caring environment for mothers and
While maternal and newborn care has improved
significantly in the past three decades, there are still controllable
risks to the health of fetuses and newborns that have not been adequately
addressed. Each year, for example, more than five per cent of Canadian
babies are born at low birth weight (under 2,500 grams), increasing
the risk of health problems and disability. Compared with affluent children,
economically disadvantaged children are almost twice as likely to be
born prematurely with low birth weight and die before 30 days of age.
Furthermore, one in four pregnant women smokes, increasing the risk
of low birth weight and other complications.
action and impact
CICH develops and implements strategies to address
pre- and post-natal challenges. For example, we know prenatal folic
acid supplementation is an inexpensive and simple way of substantially
reducing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. CICH's work contributed
to the development of the Folic Acid National Consensus Strategy
and fewer neural tube defects in Canada.
Similarly, there is increasing awareness of the impact of maternal alcohol
consumption on fetal development. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) describes
a set of preventable birth defects seen in children whose mothers consumed
alcohol while pregnant. CICH is managing FASEout: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal
Alcohol Effects Outreach Project, a four-year initiative funded
by Health Canada, designed to ensure agencies and organizations across
Canada are using best practices with respect to preventing, diagnosing
and intervening in cases of FAS/E.
The Institute also established the Coalition for the Prevention of
Low Birth Weight and Prematurity to motivate communities to develop
low birth weight reduction projects and networks for communication and
CICH's work has helped improve the life chances of children through:
- research programs, such as the first National
Survey on Resuscitation of Newborns, which led to the creation
of national guidelines for resuscitation training and services in
- educational initiatives, such as the Back
to Sleep campaign, which recommended infants sleep on their back
in a smoke-free environment, resulting in a 60 per cent decrease in
infant deaths due to sudden infant death syndrome; and
- advocacy efforts, such as working as a member
of the Canadian Coalition for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities to improve standards for perinatal care, improve resuscitation of
newborn infants and develop standards for the role of nurses in reproductive
CICH's efforts contributed to a reduction
in infant mortality from 7 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 6 per
1,000 live births in 1995.
Medical studies continue to reinforce the
benefits of breastfeeding to the physical and cognitive health of infants.
However, in the mid-1990s, a national survey showed that less than 50
per cent of babies in Canada are breastfed for a minimum of six months,
the optimal period to support healthy development.
action and impact
Educating health professionals has been key to changing
attitudes towards breastfeeding. Recognizing the need for accurate,
consistent information, CICH worked closely with the Breastfeeding Committee
for Canada to revise the National Breastfeeding Guidelines for Health
Care Providers, the only national resource to help professionals
counsel parents on breastfeeding. Since the launch of CICH's breastfeeding
support initiatives, more women in Canada breastfeed and do so for longer
periods of time.
The Canadian Institute of Child Health plays a unique
and vital role in the health of our children. When you support CICH, you're supporting research that is translated into evidence-based action, policies that become better practices, and, ultimately, healthier children.
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Reviewed: August 2005