A very good morning to all of you. Firstly, I would like to thank the Federation of the Chinese Associations of Sabah for inviting me to officiate this auspicious event this morning.
I was made to understand that one of the objective of this function is to highlight the joys of familyhood as a mean to boost the declining birth rate especially among the Chinese community.
Here, I would like to bring to your attention on the present birth statistics in our community. According to the Vital Statistical Reports from the Department of Statistics, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for 2005 showed that the TFR for the Malays is 2.9; the Chinese 1.9 and 2.0 for the Indians. The TFR showed a decline in 2007 whereby TFR for the Malays had dropped to 2.7; the Chinese to 1.8 and 1.9 for the Indians. The Chinese community is shown to have the lowest fertility rate. Total Fertility Rate is defined as the number of children that are born to a women during her reproductive age (15-49 years of age).
Many factors can contribute to this decline in fertility rate. Generally studies had shown that with increasing level of education, women tend to have lesser children. Increasing level of education goes parallel with better jobs and improved income. Another contributing factor is the increase in labour force participation of women especially among the Chinese community. Good jobs are usually available in the cities or big towns. Studies worldwide had shown that urbanization do contribute to the decline in Total Fertility Rate. Studies had shown that women tend to delay or postpone their marriage to allow more time to further their education and to develop their carrier. Delaying child bearing at a later age can affect a women’s fertility, which means that as women aged, she has difficulty of getting pregnant. Data from the Malaysian Population and Family Survey (MPFS4) conducted by LPPKN in 2004 showed that the average age of marriage for the Chinese community in Sabah is 29.3 years of age for the males and 26.3 years of age for females.
No married life can be complete without the presence of a daughter or a son. A child should be nurtured and provided with the best care right from birth. In this respect, I would like to emphasise on the importance of breastfeeding for babies. As I am sure most mothers are aware of the well-known benefits of breastfeeding: providing the perfect form of nutrition to your baby, strengthening your baby's immune system, enhancing the bond between you and your child, and helping you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
With the rise of a more internet-savvy and well-informed faction of urban women, one would expect more mothers to breastfeed. In Malaysia, however, the number of women who breastfeed exclusively during the first six months remains very low, with a mere 14.5% who breastfeed their children up to six months in 2006, compared to 29% in 1996. (Reports from the National Health and Morbidity Surveys by Ministry of Health)
Although the commonly recognized benefits of breastfeeding are already extremely convincing, research continues to reveal countless more. Some of the findings showed that Breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight or obese as children and adults. Breast milk promotes brain development and intelligence. Children who are breastfed as babies score higher on IQ and cognitive tests than those who are formula-fed, regardless of socioeconomic status or mother's intelligence. Children who are breastfed during infancy are better able to cope with stress than those who are not breastfed. Breast feedings not only benefit the babies but he mothers as well. The most outstanding benefits are protection against breast and ovarian cancers, and the possible prevention of osteoporosis. The main problem with breastfeeding in Malaysia is maintenance, not initiation. Despite encourage mothers to breastfeed at the start, many stop once they return to work, especially with the convenience and availability of infant formulas around. Having a support group is very important for a women to continue breastfeeding up to 6 month or 2 years. They should turn to friends and family members for advice.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to urge more mothers especially among the Chinese community to practice breastfeeding. As I had mentioned earlier breastfeeding provide protection against breast cancer. Breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of women in Malaysia. Malaysian Breast Cancer Registry in 2003 reported that breast cancer incidence is higher among Chinese and Indian women compared to Malay women. Incidence of breast cancer among Malaysian Malay is 1: 28; Malaysian Indian is 1: 17 and Malaysian Chinese is 1:16.
The differences in incidence rates between the Malays and Chinese can be explained in terms of risk factors known to be associated with breast cancer. This can be attributed to the fact that the Chinese are more likely to have fewer children, have their first child late, and also to breastfeed for shorter periods. Other risk factors in the Chinese could be related to their generally higher socioeconomic status and diet, with a possible influence of genetics.
Ladies and Gentlemen, before I end, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Federation of Chinese Association Sabah, Women’s Bureau, Sabah Professional Fhotographers’ Society and Board of Visitors Likas Hospital for being the organisers of this memorable event.
On this note, it now gives me great pleasure in officiating “Our Little Wonders – Our Future” Baby Contest 2009.