India is a vast, powerful storehouse of knowledge. While 'expert' knowledge is well documented, valuable knowledge gained through practitioner experience is typically lost or ignored. Furthermore, practitioners cannot always access the knowledge they need, such as whether a particular idea was tried before or where to turn when facing a bottleneck. To harness this knowledge pool and help practitioners avoid reinventing the wheel, the United Nations offices in India created the Solution Exchange -a free, impartial space where professionals are welcome to share their knowledge and experi-ence15. Members represent a wide range of perspectives from government, NGOs, donors, the private sector and academia. They are organized into Communities of Practice built around the framework of the Millennium Development Goals. Members interact on an ongoing basis, building familiarity and trust, gaining in knowledge that helps them contribute more effectively - individually and collectively -to development challenges.
Communities begin with the Solution Exchange's personalized 'Research Service'. Here individual members post questions on the Community's web-based platform about the development challenges they face; other members respond to these questions and the moderation team provides research into them. The tacit knowledge and expert knowledge are brought together in a summarized 'Consolidated Reply' which is circulated to the Community, normally within 10 working days.
The Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Community, facilitated by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA country offices in India, focuses on implementation issues facing the attainment of the development goals and targets in the Tenth Five-Year Plan of India, the National Population Policy 2000, Rural Health Mission and Phase II of the Reproductive and Child Health Programme, which correspond most closely to the universally endorsed Millennium Development Goals and targets leading to reduction of maternal and child mortality.
The main focuses of the MCH Community are to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality, and to improve child health and reduce infant and child mortality. The MCH Community has now been in action for almost a year, with membership growing from 130 to 725 during this time, representing 28 states and union territories of India and a few members from outside India as well. Discussions have ranged from skilled attendance at birth, setting up a telemedicine center, exclusive breast-feeding and complementary feeding, operationalizing urban Integrated Child Development Services, medical termination of pregnancies, etc.
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For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.