According to a new Statistics Canada study, 91 per cent of people in Sudbury and surrounding districts support breastfeeding in public.
In 2005, only 72 per cent of the population said they supported breastfeeding in public, said Julia Ritchie, a public health nurse with the Sudbury and District Health Unit.
Ritchie said the Statistics Canada study has shown many of the health unit's advocacy campaigns have been successful.
“We've had two larger campaigns (in that time),” she said.
Breastfeeding challenges, where new mothers are encouraged to breastfeed in public, have also helped promote the practice, Ritchie said.
“Numbers are steadily increasing every year,” she said. “This goes to show that a lot of the work that we're doing is positive and is changing things in the community.”
The Sudbury and District Health Unit, like most public health organizations, promotes breastfeeding as the healthiest option for infants.
That statistic is just one of many covering physical activity, eating habits and infant development in a new Statistics Canada study commissioned by the health unit.
The study was conducted as part of Statistics Canada's training course for new employees. Every year, the government agency's newest members preform a real-world statistical analysis by collaborating with a municipality or public organization.
The Sudbury and District Health Unit last collaborated with Statistics Canada on its training program in 2003.
“We really like to have access to local data so we can better understand the needs of our communities,” said Tracey Weatherbe, manager of the health unit's health promotion division.
Statistics Canada started with an initial sample of 2,000 dwellings, and conducted 795 interviews for the study.
The results from the study will help inform how the health unit can move forward with its advocacy around various issues, said Weatherbe.
With regards to healthy eating, Weatherbe said the study reinforces the work the health unit has done to promote local, and healthy, food options in Sudbury and the surrounding districts.
“The data really re-affirms our current focus on improving access to healthy foods,” she said.
According to the study, 76 per cent of the residents in City of Greater Sudbury, Sudbury District and Manitoulin District seek local food when making food purchases.
But a lack of variety was cited as the leading barrier that prevented respondents from purchasing local food. Cost was also a barrier for 25 per cent of respondents.
Darshaka Malaviarachchi, an epidemiologist with the health unit, said the study's methodology was robust.
Malaviarachchi said he was surprised by the divide between people who are university-educated, and those with less than a high school diploma, when it comes to healthy living.
Seventy-six per cent of the study's university-educated respondents participated in non-organized physical activity, but only 29 per cent of respondents without a high school diploma did the same.
Almost one out of four residents participated in an organized physical recreational activity at a municipal venue. Residents with a university education had a participation rate of 32 per cent, whereas those with less than a high school diploma had a participation rate of 10 per cent.