Tennessee Center for Patient Safety, TIPQC, Tenn. Department of Health, and Tenn. Hospital Association Coalition Launches Initiative To Increase Breastfeeding In State

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Among all states, Tennessee’s ranks 49th on breastfeeding practices according to the most recent CDC Survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC). Coalition will emphasize "compelling" immediate and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding to improve rating.

Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline offers support and encouragement to new mothers 24-7.

“Despite the compelling benefits of breastfeeding and our progress in recent years, we still have great opportunity for improving breastfeeding rates in Tennessee,” said John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health.

Three of four Tennessee babies are breastfed at some point, but there is still an opportunity to improve the rate of breastfeeding and a strong case to be made for breastfeeding.

A coalition of healthcare providers and organizations has launched a campaign to increase the rate and duration of breastfeeding statewide in an effort to improve the long-term health of Tennesseans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, 74.9 percent of babies born in Tennessee are breastfed at some point, compared to the national average of 79.2 percent. CDC statistics show only 40.7 percent of breastfeeding Tennessee babies are still nursing at six months and 20.9 percent at their first birthday.

“Despite the compelling benefits of breastfeeding and our progress in recent years, we still have great opportunity for improving breastfeeding rates in Tennessee,” said John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. Among all states, Tennessee’s ranks 49th on breastfeeding practices according to the most recent CDC Survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC).

The effort, launched this week by the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care (TIPQC), Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) and the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety seeks to increase awareness of immediate and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding.
Among those benefits, the campaign emphasizes that breastfed babies are less likely to experience obesity as they grow up, resulting in healthier Tennesseans and lower healthcare costs. Additionally, breastfeeding helps satisfy a baby’s emotional needs, promoting bonding between mother and child.

There is evidence that infants who are exclusively breastfed in the early months of their lives are at lower risk for a variety of health conditions including respiratory illnesses, ear infections, insulin-dependent diabetes, certain cancers, asthma and even vision defects.

"Breastfeeding has unique nutritional and health benefits for both mother and child," said Karen Schetzina, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics at the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University. "Support for mothers is important - from the physician community, hospitals, nurses, fathers, grandparents, other family members, friends and employers, as well as society as a whole. We believe increased benefit awareness will lead to greater adoption of breastfeeding and support for nursing mothers, while improving the collective health of all Tennesseans."

The campaign, which includes posters in hospitals and doctors’ offices, a website, social media, and public service advertisements officially begins today. The campaign is made possible through funding from a CDC grant and in agreement with the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker said, “Tennessee hospitals and providers are pleased to be a part of the breastfeeding support campaign. THA has previously worked in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health on other successful maternal and infant projects, such as early elective deliveries and the safe sleep campaign. I’m sure our collaboration in support of breastfeeding will yield similar success for Tennessee.”

The group’s website http://www.healthytennesseebabies.com highlights benefits of breastfeeding and sources of information and support. New mothers can get encouragement and support around the clock by calling the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline at 855-423-6667 (855-4BFMOMS).

This project is funded under an agreement with the State of Tennessee. This publication was supported by the Cooperative Agreement number CDC-RFA-DP13-1305, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the DHHS.

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Phil Martin