Health promotion aims to enable people to gain control over, and improve, their own health. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion provided the first international framework for health promotion based on five components (World Health Organization 1986):

  • develop personal skills
  • create supportive environments
  • strengthen community action
  • reorient health services
  • build healthy public policies.

On a global scale the approaches vary considerably depending on context. In many developing countries there are continued attempts to stop formula companies from marketing to vulnerable parents. In addition, in developed countries issues of inadequate breastfeeding services, maternal isolation, lack of community support for parents, discrimination in various environments and lack of paid parental leave frequently prove to be barriers for parents to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

Applied to breastfeeding, the five components from the Ottawa Charter can be used to:

  • tackle breastfeeding prevalence, duration, and intensity from many angles
  • set out evidence-based expectations relating to a government’s performance in relation to promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding
  • provide frameworks for addressing breastfeeding prevalence-related issues
  • contribute to an environment that supports or, in some cases, requires involved nations to commit to develop and maintain policies, structures and services that support, promote, and protect breastfeeding.


World Health Organization. 1986. Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion: First International Conference on Health Promotion Ottawa. Geneva: World Health Organization.