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For release: January 12, 2015 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601

Health Department Partnerships Improve Oklahoma’s Breastfeeding Rates

New data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program shows dramatic increases in breastfeeding initiation rates and surpasses state and national averages, achieving Healthy People 2020 goals six years early.  Healthy People is a science-based, 10-year national initiative that sets objectives for improving the health of all Americans nationwide.

Typically, WIC mothers tend to have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates  in the country, yet the percentage of Oklahoma WIC mothers breastfeeding reached an all-time high of 82.1 percent in 2014. In OSDH/WIC clinics that have a breastfeeding peer counselor program, the breastfeeding rates are even higher at 85.1 percent.

“OSDH has partnered with multiple organizations on statewide efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and we are beginning to see that teamwork makes a positive impact on public and workforce policies, lifestyles, and changing attitudes that now support breastfeeding mothers,” said OSDH WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator Rosanne Smith. “This data shows that WIC mothers want to breastfeed and we need to continue to make it easier for them to keep on breastfeeding.”

A mother’s ability to breastfeed is impacted by many factors from prenatal care to hospital delivery, and from community practices to workplace policies. Similar to other public health efforts, one intervention is unlikely to address all barriers faced by breastfeeding mothers. OSDH has successfully partnered on a number of statewide efforts which are showing positive results. Some of those programs and efforts include:

·         The WIC program provides quality breastfeeding education to all pregnant clients, positively influencing a mother’s decision to initiate breastfeeding. Over half of all babies born in Oklahoma each year are on the WIC program before their first birthday. WIC’s evidence-based peer counselor program, available in 19 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, provides more extensive prenatal and postpartum support that mothers need to resolve their breastfeeding concerns. WIC breastfeeding peer counselors are breastfeeding mothers who have been trained to provide mother-to-mother support.

·         OSDH partnered with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) Department of OB/GYN to develop and operate a free, statewide Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline that breastfeeding mothers, families and health care professionals can call 24/7 and receive professional lactation support from International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Over 15,000 calls have been received by the hotline since its launch in 2009.

·         OSDH and OUHSC partnered in 2010 to provide professional training on breastfeeding management to hospitals and healthcare providers through the Oklahoma Hospital Breastfeeding Education Project. This partnership expanded in 2012 to include the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Hospital Association and the Office of Perinatal Quality Improvement. The team launched the Becoming Baby-Friendly in Oklahoma Project to help hospitals improve care for breastfeeding mothers and babies and work to achieve the international designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. As a result, Oklahoma hospitals’ combined average scores on the CDC survey of hospital practices has improved by about 30 percent, from 55 out of 100 in 2009, to 71 out of 100 in 2013.

·          OSDH has partnered with the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA) and the Oklahoma BirthNetwork to recognize Breastfeeding-Friendly Worksites. Currently 144 worksites are recognized for having a breastfeeding policy for employees, a private location for mothers to express milk during flexible break times, and access to a nearby clean water source and sink.

·         WIC and partners collaborated to produce free breastfeeding legislation cards that mothers can carry in their wallets. These cards explain Oklahoma’s state laws and federal labor regulations protecting their rights to breastfeed.  The cards are available, at no cost, on the OSDH Breastfeeding Information and Support website at http://bis.health.ok.gov.

For more information on OSDH initiatives to improve breastfeeding outcomes and reduce infant mortality, call OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service at (405) 271-4480 and ask about the  Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative or visit: http://iio.health.ok.gov. For information about breastfeeding support in your area, call the WIC toll-free number at 1-888-655-2942.  

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