Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Achieving the gold standard

The Dakota County Public Health Department is one of two local health departments awarded "gold level" recognition by the Minnesota Department of Health for supporting breastfeeding. 

The recognition program was created to acknowledge a local health department's commitment to supporting healthy families by developing policies and practices and providing community leadership in improving breastfeeding rates. To achieve the gold level, health departments must demonstrate completion of all 10 recommended steps for promoting and supporting breastfeeding. 

"Breastfeeding provides so many health benefits to mothers and babies, and we've encouraged support for breastfeeding for many years," commented Public Health Director Bonnie Brueshoff. "This recognition program presented a useful framework that helped us improve our efforts. We've expanded outreach into the community and continued our work with health care and human service partners to promote breastfeeding." 

Research has identified many health benefits from breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfed have reduced risks for ear, respiratory, stomach and intestinal infections. They also are at lower risk of asthma, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Mothers who breastfeed recover more quickly from pregnancy and are less likely to get breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If breastfeeding recommendations were met, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that $2 billion would be saved annually in medical costs for children.

Breastfeeding for new mothers and infants is encouraged in hospitals and recommended for 12 months or more. In Dakota County, 9 out of 10 babies born in 2013 were breastfed upon discharge from the hospital. However, many mothers do not continue breastfeeding for a variety of reasons, including a lack of support at home, in the workplace or in the community. For example, at six months of age, just 42 percent of infants served by the Dakota County Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) are breastfed, below the national goal of 61 percent. By 12 months, just 24 percent of Minnesota WIC babies and 31 percent of babies served by Dakota County WIC still breastfeed, the same as the national goal of 31 percent.

This is the first year of the Minnesota Department of Health recognition program, which was patterned after an international Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative launched by WHO and UNICEF in 1991. The Minnesota program, which is supported by the state WIC program and the Statewide Health Improvement program (SHIP), also recognizes health care providers, businesses and childcare providers that support breastfeeding. 

A comprehensive toolkit with resources and guidance to assist local public health departments to become breastfeeding-friendly was developed by Dakota County Public Health Department staff and is available at, searchbreastfeeding friendly.

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