CHAMPS is excited to honor the South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition (SMBFC), a relatively new group that is doing a great job supporting and promoting breastfeeding on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast!
“Our coalition’s mission is to promote and protect breastfeeding by providing support, advocacy, and resources for a healthier South Mississippi community,” shares Amanda Sterling, RN, BSN, IBCLC, founding President of SMBFC and Lactation Consultant & CHAMPS Team Leader at CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Biloxi.
Founded in August 2017, SMBFC is still spreading the word about who they are. They are contacting local parent groups, physicians and hospitals that work with parents, grandparents, women and children to let them know about the work they are doing. They have begun a website and have social media sites that share helpful information, encouragement and community events that pertain to breastfeeding. Last year, they wrote a letter of support for the Mississippi Public Health Institute to aid in them receiving a 3.4 million dollar grant from the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program, known as REACH. It aims to improve lives by building stronger relationships between black communities, public health groups, health care providers and community-based organizations. Part of the work this grant plans to do is open a cluster of Baby Cafés on the Gulf Coast this year.
With the tide turning regarding breastfeeding in Mississippi, Amanda wants SMBFC to be there to support the increased number of women wanting to breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding rates in our community have increased greatly over the last several years,” Amanda says. “Almost every hospital in our area is now on the Baby-Friendly pathway and breastfeeding is being promoted more and more. The community is becoming more educated on the importance of breastfeeding, which has led to higher initiation. This is amazing considering historically Mississippi has always had the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. With the initiation and desire to breastfeed increasing in our area, we need to be there to support the duration of the breastfeeding experience. We want people to be able to reach their breastfeeding goals and continue through any challenges they may face. Our goal is to support them along the way.”
SMBFC meets quarterly in different counties within South Mississippi and hopes to involve more people. They have had nurses, lactation consultants, physicians, La Leche League leaders, mothers of children of all ages, grandmothers, and others in the community that support breastfeeding attend their meetings. Everyone is welcome! They discuss ways to help spread the message about breastfeeding in their community, ways to raise funds to do this work, and anything else that has been brought to the table for the coalition to address.
Check out this helpful breastfeeding resource guide that SMBFC created! It lists various breastfeeding resources in the counties they serve, and they have shared it with local hospitals and posted it on their website.
Congratulations, SMBFC, and thank you for the work you are doing!
This week the CHEER’s CHAMPion of the week is Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi (BCBSMS). BCBSMS has been nominated as CHAMPions for their proactive and enduring commitment to improving maternal and infant health in Mississippi through their Maternity Quality Model, and for their ongoing collaborative role with CHAMPS to establish the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative across Mississippi.
The Maternity Quality Model, a statewide quality improvement initiative, includes four key components focusing on promoting healthier mothers and babies in Mississippi. The four components of the BCBSMS Maternity Quality Model are:
Part 1 - Prevention of Early Elective Delivery
Part 2 - Neonatal Appropriateness of Care
Part 3 - Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation
Part 4 - Implementation of Maternal Safety Bundles
BCBSMS works with Network Hospitals and key partners, Mississippi Perinatal Quality Collaborative (MSPQC) and CHAMPS, to implement best practices in all clinical settings caring for mothers and babies.
“We want expectant parents to have the opportunity to provide their baby with a healthy start to life. Our Maternity Quality Initiative is working to ensure families receive the highest quality evidence-based care before, during and after pregnancy along with support as they welcome baby home.” Casey Bland, Hospital Quality Coordinator at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Priorities shared by BCBSMS and CHAMPS include increasing rates of breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and mother/baby bonding which leads to long term health benefits for mothers and infants. Driving this change are the collaborative efforts between BCBSMS and CHAMPS to support Mississippi Hospitals along the pathway to reach Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation. Ultimately, the goal is for all Mississippi hospitals to receive Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation.
“As a result of the collaborative work between BCBSMS and CHAMPS, BCBSMS Hospitals are increasing rates of breastfeeding through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative,” says Casey Bland.
In 2014, when BCBSMS began collaborating with CHAMPS, there were no Mississippi hospitals with the Baby-Friendly designation. Today, 93% of BCBSMS hospitals are either designated or on the pathway to designation. So far, 11 hospitals have received the designation.
CHEER applauds BCBSMS’ leadership in this field and congratulates them on this CHAMPion of the week designation.
This week’s CHEER Champion of the week is Nikos Varakis, MD, IBCLC, a pediatrician in private practice in Rethymnon on the southern Greek island of Crete, where he has worked since 2004.
Nikos became an IBCLC in 2011. He is a founding member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Greece, and was elected president of the Galaxias Greece (the Association of Lactation Consultants of Greece) in April 2019. Galaxias holds annual conferences and brings together lactation experts from all of Greece, many of whom are IBCLC doctors.
“Before I became IBCLC, I thought I was supporting breastfeeding, but really I was failing,” Nikos explains. “We were never taught anything in medical school about breastfeeding, and I was giving wrong advice.”
A friend encouraged him by their own enthusiasm for breastfeeding, and he was amazed at the outcomes he saw in his practice.
“I see less eczema and less bronchitis and respiratory infections. I prescribe fewer inhalers and fewer antibiotics. This is huge. I see less sick children – our work is so much better if we can prevent illness in the first place.”
Nikos is the father of twins, who breastfed up to 6 months, but still he wishes he had known more and supported them to breastfeed for longer. “I wasn’t aware of the longer term benefits – but now I know!” he says.
Nikos says his goals are to promote breastfeeding even more broadly and to grow the reach and impact of Galaxias. He also hopes to support the creation of Baby-Friendly hospitals in Crete. Congratulations from CHEER, Nikos, for your great work!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Kirsten Krane, MS-MPH, RDN, Project Manager for CHEER. Kirsten started working for CHEER in 2014 and has done an excellent job managing a wide variety of projects. Sadly, Kirsten will be ending her work with us on May 3, 2019. We’d like to honor and thank her for all her wonderful contributions!
“CHEER has done a lot of great work, and I’ve been really fortunate to have been a part of it!” shares Kirsten.
Kirsten’s work has spanned across the nation, encompassing our American Indian/Alaska Native health projects, our early Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices (CHAMPS) work, and our more recent Mississippi CHAMPS work. When Kirsten first began with CHEER, she helped manage our first CHAMPS initiative, which focused on assisting hospitals across 4 states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee) with achieving Baby-Friendly status. Then, she helped when CHAMPS began our project to assist tribally-operated birthing facilities in Alaska, Arizona, and Oklahoma to achieve Baby-Friendly status as well. Kirsten has also managed CHEER community health assessments in Native communities in Montana; and data and evaluation projects in Native communities around domestic violence prevention, suicide prevention, substance use prevention, and youth empowerment. Kirsten has worked collaboratively with hospitals on improving their substance use treatment practices with pregnant women, and assisting those hospitals to build community support and momentum around this work. Lastly, Kirsten has coached hospitals in our MS CHAMPS program, and many hospital staff have expressed gratitude for Kirsten’s consistent encouragement and support. To all her work, Kirsten brought a tremendous amount of positive energy and enthusiasm.
“My favorite part of working with CHEER has been getting to be a member of an incredibly dedicated team of people who are working on really important health and equity projects across the nation. I also love getting to know all of the different people and communities that we engage with through our work. It really grounds me to connect with people who show up for their jobs every day and go above and beyond to make their communities better places to live,” Kirsten says.
Prior to CHEER, Kirsten worked as a Public Health Nutritionist for the Indian Health Service in Browning, Montana; helped lead the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at the Blackfeet Community Hospital; served in the Peace Corps in Guyana, South America; and worked for WIC and as a clinical dietitian. Kirsten is a founding board member of FAST Blackfeet, a non-profit on the Blackfeet Nation working to educate and advocate for changes to the local food system to create food sovereignty for the Nation and food security for individuals in the community. She served for 4 years as Chair for the Public Policy Committee for the Montana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is still active with the committee.
Congratulations and farewell, Kirsten! Best wishes and thank you for all your work!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).