Congratulations to one of the newest members on our Mississippi CHAMPS team, Felisha Floyd, BS, CLC, IBCLC, for the incredible work she is doing to reduce racial disparities in breastfeeding! Felisha is Lactation Coordinator for the Hospital Corporations of America system in Florida and Owner/Lactation Consultant with her private practice, Beyond Breastfeeding. Her work with CHAMPS focuses on reviewing hospital materials, helping to guide the Mississippi CHAMPS project regarding race, and conducting hospital site visits and mock surveys.
“I am driven by my belief that health disparities in the African-American community can be drastically reduced if human milk was recognized as baby’s first food,” shares Felisha. “I firmly believe access to human milk is a matter of life or death for communities of color. The change I would like to envision is to decrease barriers to lactation support, and to disrupt systemic obstacles which fuel disparities in breastfeeding within communities of color.”
The mission to promote racial equity in breastfeeding is central to Felisha’s various work and roles. She is the founder of Our Brown Baby, a community-based breastfeeding support group for families of color; one of the founding mothers and current President of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color; and a Center for Social Inclusion First Food Equity Cohort member. On social media, she is known as “Blactavist!” (Black Lactation Activist), and facilitates an online community comprised of approximately 38,000 supporters and dedicated to empowering African-American families to breastfeed. Through these roles, Felisha has presented trainings nationwide on the topics of clinical breastfeeding, racial equity, first food justice, mentorship, power of collective impact and more.
Health equity often begins with training providers and increasing diversity, and Felisha mentors future lactation consultants through her private practice. She co-authored the article, “Clinical Internships for the Next Generation of IBCLCs,” published in the Journal of Human Lactation. Felisha also serves with high honor as a member of the Global Board of Directors for Mom2Mom Global, as the Advocacy Chair for the State of Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, and as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). She has been honored as a recipient of the Inaugural Concrete Rose Award by Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere and recognized by USBC with the Legacy Award.
Lastly, this CHEER Champion of the Week has a fun hobby and special talent, to design costumes around the lactation theme. Past costumes have included a “breastfeeding super hero” who fights to encourage families to continue their breastfeeding journey and “the milk fairy,” inspired by her nickname at work.
Welcome to the CHAMPS team, Felisha, it’s great to have you on board!
This week’s CHEER Champions of the Week are LT Amber Means, RN and LCDR Sandi Olson, RN, MSN. They are both Case Managers at Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Northern Cheyenne Service Unit (NCSU) on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana. They are doing an amazing job coordinating the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe” project among perinatal patients on Northern Cheyenne! CHEER is the Billings Area contractor on this project, which is funded by an Inter-Agency Agreement between the Office on Women’s Health and IHS. The project aims to improve prenatal care and drug use prevention and treatment within the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribes and the facilities that serve them.
“This work is extremely important for the Northern Cheyenne community,” Amber says, “because without healthy mothers, we cannot have a healthy tribe.”
So far, Amber and Sandi have focused on getting a clear picture of the prenatal population at NCSU and the NCSU system, to see how the prenatal population is managed and where improvements could be made. They have also looked at outside systems that interact with NCSU to identify “gaps and opportunities” for working with high-risk prenatal patients. As a result, they have initiated many changes at NCSU, including developing a clear and concise way of documenting prenatal records and improving substance abuse screening. Sandi says one of their ultimate goals is to “form a collaborative group of key stakeholders that can meet once per week to identify high-risk prenatal patients and staff that person [in order to] avoid having an infant born into neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
In addition to the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe” project, Amber and Sandi are responsible for coordinating services for patients who have been referred out to other health care providers. This includes coordination of care for complex patients who are coming back into the community after a trauma or significant illness, and all hospital and ER discharges. They also follow all patients who have been referred out to specialists through the IHS referral system. Their goal is to provide continuity of care between health care facilities and improve health outcomes of the Native population they serve. They share a caseload of approximately 400 patients per month.
Amber is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and a Northern Cheyenne descendent. She shares, “I was born and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and many of the people here are family and friends. I am and have always been very motivated to assist the people of my community regarding their health, and have been able to do that through various opportunities as a registered nurse.”
Like Amber, Sandi brings sense of purpose to the work she does. She shares, “My personal motivation is to assist with creating a system where our population has better health outcomes for our next generation.”
Congratulations, Amber and Sandi, and thank you for all you do!
Congratulations to Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland, Louisiana, for achieving Baby-Friendly designation on September 28, 2017! Ochsner St. Anne has approximately 350 births per year. They were part of the first wave of the CHAMPS South program during 2014-2017, along with several other Ochsner Health System hospitals in Louisiana.
“There are moments in everyone’s career when we are overwhelmed with joy. [September 28th] was one of those moments for me!” shares Crystal Risinger, RN, BSN, IBCLC, Director of Women’s Services at Ochsner St. Anne.
“Ochsner St. Anne is the 7TH hospital in Louisiana to receive this designation and the 2nd in our region and system. What we are doing for our community takes a village. A very special thank you to Pam Folse, Dr. Natasha Goss, Dr. Megan Hartman, Nurses and Techs in Women’s Services, OB Clinic Staff, Mary Pierce, Sarah Price, OB/GYN Physician Group, Family Physician Group, St. Anne CRNA Group and Alison Fontenot,” Crystal says.
Congratulations, Ochsner St. Anne! It’s been a pleasure to be on the Baby-Friendly journey with you!
Sannie (“Sandy”) Snell, MSW, MPH, President of Women and Children’s Health Initiatives, works as an independent consultant on maternal and child health issues. She is currently Project Director of Right! from the Start, a project based in the Mississippi Delta and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. This project’s goal is to increase the breastfeeding rates for low, very low and extremely low birth weight babies utilizing a collaborative, multi-agency approach. The project includes a research component and provides care coordination and psychosocial support for the mother and baby until the baby reaches 2 years of age.
“Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate and the highest number of premature babies born in the nation,” says Sannie. “Preterm birth is the leading cause of developmental problems and infant mortality. Research suggests that preterm birth is likely caused by a number of factors including genetic, socioeconomic and environmental, and although all racial and ethnic groups have poor birth outcomes, there is a racial and economic disparity of babies born premature.”
Sannie says Right! from the Start seeks to address these disparities by not only working directly with mothers and babies and researching that work’s outcomes, but also by educating healthcare and social service practitioners, providing recommendations to improve services, and bringing together diverse stakeholders and engaging them in knowledge building and problem solving.
A Mississippi native, Sannie left the state to further her education and professional experience, but returned 7 years ago with a desire to make a difference in her home state. She has 30 years of public and private healthcare experience. Most recently, she worked as Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Regional One Health in Memphis, Tennessee, and as a consultant for a health management company that provides care coordination services for pregnant women and NICU graduates.
Sannie is grateful for the support she receives from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, the funding from the Kellogg Foundation, and for her partners in Mississippi: The Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Aaron E. Henry Health Services Center, Inc., Delta Health Center, Inc., The Mississippi State Department of Health, and Healthy Start.
Sannie says, “I love this work and appreciate the opportunity to work with great people to try to make a difference for our most vulnerable babies and families in Mississippi. It is a true blessing!”
Congratulations, Sannie! Keep up the good 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).