Allegiance Health Selected for Unprecedented National Effort to Increase Breastfeeding Rates
July 20, 2012
Jackson, Mich. — Allegiance Health is pleased to announce that our health system has been selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings, a first-of-its-kind national effort to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in states where rates are currently the lowest.
“Allegiance Health is honored to be chosen to participate in this important effort. We welcome this opportunity to further elevate our services to mothers and newborns to better support breastfeeding,” said Jacalyn Liebowitz, vice president of Patient Care Continuum. “We understand that the hospital experience strongly influences a mother’s ability to start and continue with her plans to breastfeed. Allegiance Health is committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process. Our aim is to ensure that mothers delivering in our hospital who intend to breastfeed will receive the support and education they need to be successful.”
Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, half of US-born babies are given formula within the first week, and by nine months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all. Best Fed Beginnings seeks to reverse these trends by dramatically increasing the number of US hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.
Allegiance Health will be participating in this initiative, along with 89 other hospitals that were selected from 235 applicants. The groups will work together in a 22-month learning collaborative, using proven quality improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of “Baby-Friendly” designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as established in the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in hospitals that achieve this status.
“We look forward to working with Allegiance Health and congratulate them on their successful application,” said Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, president and CEO of NICHQ. “The large number of applications we received affirms the commitment of hospitals across our country to be part of a health care system that truly focuses on promoting health for women and infants. We are especially pleased that we received so many applications from hospitals in states where there are so few facilities with Baby-Friendly designation and from hospitals that serve populations of women who now are much less likely to breastfeed.”
Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants’ risk of becoming obese later in childhood. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.