October 8, 2018

To help local hospitals become baby-friendly

A new effort in North Carolina and South Carolina aims to improve maternity care and breastfeeding rates in underserved areas – and help babies get the healthy start they need.

Developed at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, ENRICH Carolinas (sph.unc.edu/enrich-carolinas) will prepare 20 hospitals to earn a designation confirming they have met standards that promote healthy breastfeeding.

“We have the potential to make an impact on more than 25,000 births in the Carolinas by increasing the number of hospitals that make it easier for new mothers to breastfeed,” says Catherine Sullivan, MPH, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School.

An $830,000 grant from The Duke Endowment is funding the effort.

Experts agree that breastfeeding is a determinant of long-term health outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the “unequivocal evidence” that breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases in infants, including diarrhea, respiratory tract infection and childhood obesity.

In “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that breastfeeding exclusively during the first months of a baby’s life reduces the risk of:

Ear infections (by 100 percent)

Hospitalizations for lower respiratory diseases (by 257 percent)

Childhood obesity (by 32 percent)

Type 2 diabetes (by 64 percent)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (by 56 percent)

Breastfeeding also benefits the mother, reducing the risk of breast cancer by 4 percent for each year she breastfeeds, and reducing the risk of ovarian cancer by 27 percent.

While breastfeeding rates are rising in the U.S., they are still low, especially among low-income and minority women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those low rates add more than $3 billion each year to medical costs for mothers and children. If 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the country would save $13 billion annually in reduced medical and other costs, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Linda Kastleman / dukeendowment.org

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.6 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

Learn more on The Duke Endowment’s website at tinyurl.com/tde-baby-friendly-hospitals. To learn more about supporting the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, please contact Advancement at (919) 966-0198 or giving.sph@unc.edu.

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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.