By Amanda Li, Junior Policy Associate
The Advancing Prevention Project (APP) and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) are coordinating a Breastfeeding Community of Practice (CoP) for Local Health Departments. The Breastfeeding CoP will help LHDs achieve the 2013-2018 Prevention Agenda goal of increasing the percentage of breastfed babies in New York State. On November 1, 2016, APP hosted a webinar to kick-off the Breastfeeding CoP. The webinar was facilitated by Chideraa Ukeje from the New York Academy of Medicine, and featured Kate Rose Bobseine, MPH, CLC from the New York State Department of Health, Laurie Messinger, BS, CWWS, IBCLC from Rockland County Department of Health, and Sarah A. Tice, PHN, IBCLC from the Schenectady County Public Health Services. Each presenter brought valuable insights, knowledge, and experience to the webinar. Below are just a few of highlights:
Kate Rose Bobseine, from the New York State Department of Health
Ms. Bobseine spoke about how important breastfeeding is for not only babies, but also for mothers. Babies who have not been breastfed are at greater risk for many health issues, including diarrhea and vomiting, respiratory diseases, ear infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome. Unfortunately, the health disadvantages of not being breastfed extends into childhood, putting children at greater risks of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, leukemia, and lower IQ scores. Moreover, mothers who don’t breastfeed are at higher risk of postpartum bleeding, breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Ms. Bobseine also spoke about New York State’s comprehensive approach to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, as well as the goals of local health departments to promote breastfeeding at primary care offices, worksites, hospitals, child care centers, and community/faith-based organizations.
Laurie Messinger from Rockland County Department of Health (RCDOH)
Ms. Messinger brought valuable insight on a few of the highlights and initiatives from the Rockland County Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program. Since it began nine years ago, the program has done significant work to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Although the program was initially unfunded, in 2014, the RCDOH received a $10,000 donation from Barnes & Noble to help run its breastfeeding support program. In her presentation, Ms. Messinger highlights the importance of social media in reaching out to breastfeeding moms, and talked about RCDOH’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Week through their Twitter and Facebook pages. Ms. Messinger also touched upon the difficulties that many women face when it comes to breastfeeding in public. In response to this, the RCDOH engaged heavily in efforts to improve environments and policies for breastfeeding. Among many initiatives, the health department helped six worksites develop lactation spaces, provided technical assistance to assist daycares in becoming breastfeeding friendly, and promoted recognition of breastfeeding friendly worksites.
Sarah A. Tice from the Schenectady County Public Health Services
Schenectady County was one of the two counties that was awarded the Comprehensive Cancer Control Grant. Under this grant, the Schenectady County Public Health Services has been working on encouraging pediatric and obstetric practices to implement breastfeeding friendly policies and move towards becoming formula free. One way Schenectady has done this is by providing physicians with breastfeeding incentives (like “Babies Love Breastmilk” stationary, boppies, and “We Like to Nurse” books) to replace the incentives that doctors receive from formula companies. Ms. Tice also discussed on the need to change the social norms around breastfeeding. In an effort to change breastfeeding norms and promote awareness and support for breastfeeding in Schenectady County, the health department created five six feet tall, life-sized breastfeeding standees that have been rotated throughout physician offices, childcare/daycare programs, food pantries, and WIC locations in Schenectady over the past year.
The Advancing Prevention Project was so grateful to have three wonderful presenters speak at the kick-off webinar. We are very excited by all of the impressive work that is currently being done to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Through our Breastfeeding Community of Practice, we hope to give participants the opportunity to share, discuss, and collaborate with others across the state on how to best promote breastfeeding in our communities. Even though the New York Academy of Medicine and the New York State Department of Health will be coordinating the Community of Practice, the CoP’s content will be determined largely by participant feedback. Some important topics we may address include free or low-cost interventions, how to engage partners, barriers and strategies to overcome them, and how to build grassroots support on breastfeeding friendly initiatives. We look forward to engaging with everyone at our next Breastfeeding Community of Practice event! The slides and full kick-off webinar recording can be found on the Advancing Prevention Project Website.