Health literacy to support healthy childbirth and promote breastfeeding – a personal story from the Russian Federation


Through health literacy we reinforce good habits, for example, for nutrition and breastfeeding.

Dr Tatyana Butskaya

Doctor Tatyana Butskaya is a paediatrician, blogger and social activist who is committed to changing attitudes towards childbirth and promoting breastfeeding in the Russian Federation. In 2015, she set up the Open Maternity Hospital project to improve health literacy among both mothers and health professionals, ensure the quality of maternity hospitals, and promote breastfeeding. Participants in the project include doctors, health professionals and young mothers.

“WHO and UNICEF have created a wonderful initiative, the Baby-friendly Hospital,” says Tatyana. “My project is based on its principles and is aimed at ensuring a good approach to maternity care. We have assessment criteria, which include the possibility of visiting relatives, a full consultation by doctors on all procedures, and the provision of psychological support. Through health literacy we reinforce good habits, for example, for nutrition and breastfeeding,” she adds.

While Tatyana’s project is a private initiative, it also receives government support in the Russian Federation regions.

Improving the health literacy of health professionals and parents

Tatyana’s project highlights the important role of health literacy in helping to support, protect and promote breastfeeding, and therefore improve the short- and long-term health of the population. Improving the health literacy of not only mothers and families, but also of health professionals, is key.

Health literacy enables people to develop the skills and confidence they need to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their families, effectively navigate health care systems, and be effective advocates in influencing their political leaders and policy-makers.

Along with other doctors, Tatyana regularly holds open meetings with those who are preparing to become parents, and answers questions regarding the proper nutrition of children as well as the rights of women in childbirth. Her social media Instagram account – with over one and a half million subscribers – contains detailed recommendations and a series of advice based on WHO guidelines.