A recent intervention program was developed in an attempt to change social norms around breastfeeding. The project improves policies and supports for breastfeeding in the workplace and public spaces. It builds on existing childhood obesity prevention efforts in the community. The Business Case for Breastfeeding packages are distributed to employers to assist them in developing breastfeeding friendly policies.
The program was piloted in Floyd County, where changes at a few key employers have a large influence on the cultural norms in the community. Lessons learned from this project will be used to replicate the outreach efforts in other parts of the New River Valley.
The program has already been a great success in Floyd County. The local schools have been supplied with pumps, refrigerators and chairs to create comfortable lactation rooms. While delivering supplies to Indian Valley Elementary School, prevention specialist, Katie Van Horn, was surprised to learn that 4 of the 8 classrooms teachers were pregnant. Principal, Chris Hewitt, said that the new lactation room would definitely be utilized!
If this program is implemented throughout the entire NRHD, there is the potential to reach a population of 178,237 people. More specifically, there are approximately 41,260 women of child-bearing age (15-44) in the district who may directly benefit by the interventions planned. There were 1607 live births in the district in 2010 and 1,615 in 2009. If this rate remains constant, 8000 babies could be reached in the next five years!
The primary partners involved in carrying out this grant were the New River Health District, the Floyd County Multidisciplinary Team, the Floyd County Healthy Community Action Team and Smart Beginnings New River Valley. The New River Health District was the fiscal agent and administrator for the activities. The District Health Educator, Laura Alexander, MPH, oversaw the grant activities and provided support to community partners engaged in outreach to workplaces. The Health District Director, Dr. Molly O’Dell, implemented a similar program in Omaha, Nebraska and was been able to provide valuable insight for implementation. As leaders in the community, the members of the Floyd Multidisciplinary Team provided cross agency awareness and support, and leveraged their relationships to facilitate access to employers and policy-makers. The Healthy Community Team (HCT) conducted a county wide needs assessment and prepared a strategic plan identifying a range of needs and strategies for addressing childhood obesity in Floyd County. One priority identified in the plan is to “provide local businesses and public facilities with information and resources to support comfortable and private breastfeeding areas.” The HCT’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Specialist, Katie Van Horn, who is employed through New River Valley Community Services, helps lead outreach efforts to area employers. Smart Beginnings NRV is a regional early childhood development and school readiness initiative serving the entire New River Valley (Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and Radford). The Smart Beginnings Coordinator, David Moore, participates in outreach efforts in Floyd County and will leverage insights from the pilot project to replicate the program in other communities in the region. This intervention aims at effecting an environmental change around breastfeeding. Specifically, it is intended to increase the availability of locations for women to breastfeed, increase support for breastfeeding in the workplace, increase acceptance of breastfeeding in public places, and reward businesses that agree to be breastfeeding friendly.
The project will be sustained after funding is discontinued through the ongoing efforts of the partners. The Floyd Healthy Community Action Team will continue to promote breastfeeding under its strategic plan funded by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. The New River Health District will continue to advocate for breastfeeding through its regional Health Educator. Smart Beginnings will continue to distribute the Business Case for Breastfeeding through its efforts funded by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.