Health Dept. Awards Grant To Develop Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan

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  In an effort to improve the state’s breastfeeding rates, The New Jersey Department of Health has awarded the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium (CJFHC) $114,000 to partner with the New Jersey Breastfeeding Coalition (NJBC) to develop a statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan for New Jersey.

  The Breastfeeding Strategic Plan will help to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration and increase statewide lactation support through government efforts.

  “The benefits to breastfeeding are endless, and I am thrilled that the CJFHC and NJBC’s Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan will work with key stakeholders, community organizations, businesses and healthcare providers to increase awareness and support,” First Lady Tammy Murphy said. “By developing supports for women of color who experience barriers to breastfeeding, this plan will continue to build on the Nurture NJ campaign efforts to ensure equitable maternal and infant care to all women and children.”

  It is recommended that infants are breastfed for the first six months followed by continued breastfeeding along with the introduction of solid foods through the end of their first year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 35.2 percent of infants in NJ were exclusively breastfed at hospital discharge in 2016, and that rate decreased to 32.8 percent in 2017.

  Following discharge from the hospital, exclusive breastfeeding rates in NJ drop significantly with only 24.4 percent of infants being exclusively breastfed at six months in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  “The Department of Health is proud to partner on the development of a statewide breastfeeding strategic plan with the Department of Human Services and many other maternal and child health partners,” Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. “Initiating and continuing breastfeeding is an important component of infant health and plays a strong role in reducing black infant mortality.”

  While the NJDH facilitates many breastfeeding programs through its Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and its $4.3 million Healthy Women, Healthy Families initiative, the department believes that a statewide strategic breastfeeding plan would “enhance these programs, leverage partnerships and establish goals for the state to achieve over the next five to 10 years,” Commissioner Elnahal added.

  In addition, a statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan would work on breaking down barriers to breastfeeding among families of color and other underserved populations, including WIC and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants.

  The grant was provided through the SNAP-Ed program, which is the nutrition education component of SNAP. The SNAP-ED program in New Jersey is a joint collaboration between the Departments of Health and Human Services.

  “Being able to fund this breastfeeding planning grant through SNAP-Ed is one more way we can support our goal of improving nutrition and health among New Jersey’s families,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, so encouraging and supporting breastfeeding is always a positive step for New Jersey’s health and wellbeing.”

  The statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan project will include two stages: First, participants will identify breastfeeding opportunities and barriers in the state, evaluate current data, trends and disparities in breastfeeding rates, and assess the specific needs of WIC and SNAP participants through feedback.  

  “National studies support that breastfeeding is important not only in the short term, but also because it improves health outcomes for both the infant and mother well beyond the perinatal period. For example, one of the most exciting recent findings is that breastfeeding for at least six months cuts in half the mother’s risk of diabetes throughout the childbearing years. This is especially important for Hispanic and black women who have a higher incidence of this disease,” said Robyn D’Oria, CEO of CJFHC.

  Secong, current policies and practices will be reviewed and opportunities for multi-sector collaboration will be explored. All data, goals and proposed actions will be compiled into the final Breastfeeding Strategic Plan to be presented to the Department of Health for review and implementation.

  “We are grateful for the Department of Health’s support for prioritizing breastfeeding as a public health imperative,” said Ellen Maughan, Project Manager and NJBC Trustee. “This statewide strategic plan will engage and challenge government, healthcare providers, community members and business to partner in novel and creative ways to normalize breastfeeding in New Jersey.”

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