Oregon Hospitals Get Behind Breastfeeding Efforts

With the goal of reducing the risk of childhood obesity and promoting evidence-based prevention strategies among pregnant and postpartum women

February 2, 2011 -- Oregon hospitals are involved in an effort to encourage breastfeeding among new mothers.

A summit is being held May 23 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center to create a collaborative learning community focused on evidence-based practice. Sponsored by Oregon Hospitals Partnering for Evidence-Based Infant Nutrition, a project launched by the Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon, health insurers are lending their support along with the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Since breastfeeding is increasingly associated with the reduced risk of childhood obesity, a group of health insurers is targeting this issue as its first public health intervention. Oregon’s Public Health Institute organized this working group known as Oregon Health Insurers Partnering for Prevention to promote evidence-based prevention strategies for obesity, chronic diseases and child injury among pregnant and postpartum women. On average, there are 45,600 births in Oregon of which 96% are covered by health insurers (55% by private insurers and 41% by Medicaid/OHP).

“There’s not anything else like it (the insurance collaborative) in the country,” said Amelia Psmythe, the coalition’s director. “It will be interesting to see what comes of this collaborative.”

At present, six health insurers participate and represent 65% of private insurers and 45% of Medicaid plans.

Breastfeeding also leads to lower healthcare costs. According to research findings published in the May 2010 issue of Pediatrics®, the U.S. could save $13 billion annually in healthcare and other costs and save the lives of over 900 infants per year if 90% of babies were exclusively breastfed for six months.

Hospitals support breastfeeding and believe education and support are beneficial, according to a survey conducted by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

“They’re helping to promote our project by co-branding the May 23rd hospital summit materials,” Psmythe explained. “They’ve also indicated that any emerging hospital learning community (created) could use their infrastructure such as webinar technology for continuing education and collaboration.”

The survey also revealed that most nurse managers are aware of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding.

Of the 52 hospitals in Oregon doing births, five have been designated as Baby Friendly: PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center, Three Rivers Community Hospital, Kaiser Sunnyside, Providence Medford Medical Center and Providence Newberg Medical Center. Sacred Heart Medical Center intends to pursue the designation and McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center has expressed interest. Also, Providence Health & Services Oregon and Legacy Health System are pursuing Baby-Friendly status for their facilities.

“We’ve endorsed the goal of all Providence Oregon hospitals achieving Baby Friendly Certification,” said Linda Helsley, Oregon Director of Newborn Services for Providence Health & Services.

Breastfeeding and its benefits are gaining attention nationwide. On January 20, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, an unprecedented document, which was her first call to action.


The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report makes several Baby Friendly recommendations as a key factor in early childhood obesity prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Breastfeeding Report Card highlights the growth of Baby Friendly hospitals.

Healthy People 2020, science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of Americans, calls for increasing the percentage of Baby Friendly Hospitals to 8%.

In April 2010, the Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 18,000 healthcare organizations and programs, established a new set of perinatal quality measures encouraging hospitals to maximize the number of women exclusively breastfeeding at discharge.


Consumer advocate blog MotherBaby Network encourages hospitals to pursue the Baby Friendly designation. Women looking for quality maternity care know that a Baby Friendly designated facility will provide them with an evidence-based model of care that has been proven to produce positive outcomes.



http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/bf/docs/bf-bennies-ref.pdf (Documentation of benefits of breastfeeding)

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Looks like working with Mother Nature can have many benefits, including lowering costs. Now if we could just get the politcal parties to seek solutions rather than positons, we'd all gain something of value.