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Surveillance of children aged 0-2 years: the 2019 conference

The conference “Surveillance system for the determinants of health in early childhood”, held in Rome on 26 November 2019, provided an overview of health promotion practices during the first 1,000 days of life, and highlighted increasing awareness of the investigated topics compared to the past.


Data were collected from about 30,000 mothers visiting vaccination centres in 11 Italian Regions (Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, Autonomous Province of Trento, Marche, Lazio, Campania, Apulia, Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily and Sardinia) between December 2018 and April 2019. Region Tuscany contributed the findings of its ongoing maternity pathway survey, which was investigating the same indicators as the Surveillance.


Some data

Almost all surveyed women (93.8%) reported not smoking during pregnancy, but the percentage of children living with at least one smoking parent and/or another smoker, and therefore potentially exposed to passive smoking was high (41.9%). The percentage of women who reported drinking alcohol at least 1-2 times a month during pregnancy and breastfeeding was also high (19.7% and 34.9%, respectively).


Almost all mothers (97.3%) were taking folic acid during pregnancy, but only few of them started taking it at least one month before conception (21.7%), as recommended.


Contrary to WHO recommendations, only 23.6% of babies were breastfed until they were 4-5 months old (11.7% of infants were never breastfed), and exposure to audio-visual and digital technologies was widespread among children under 2 years of age (34.3% of babies under 6 months, 64.1% of those aged 6-12 months, and 76.4% of children over 1 year were spending some time in front of TV, tablets, mobile phones or computer screens). In addition, 44.7% of children aged 6-12 months and 34.7% of those over 12 months had no books read to them in the week preceding the survey.


Finally, about 15% of mothers with babies under 6 months reported struggling to get them seated and strapped into their car seats. For mothers with babies over 1 year, the percentage rose to 34.2%.


The Surveillance, which is promoted by the Ministry of Health/National Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and coordinated by the ISS in collaboration with local health unit 9 in Verona, is jointly carried out with the participating Regions.


For more information, read the conference programme (pdf 431 kb), and a summary of the results (pdf 699 kb).


Useful resources

Publication date: 28 November 2019

Authors: Enrica Pizzi, Michele Antonio Salvatore, Serena Donati, Angela Spinelli - ISS