Lactation education

Lactation Certificate Program Receives $450,000 Grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield NC

EAST GREENSBORO, NC (February 22, 2022) – Child health support for people of color is about to take a leap forward in the Triad region, thanks to a $450,000 grant to the Foundation for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical Blue Cross State University of North Carolina Blue Shield.

The award, which will benefit the NC A&T College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Pathway 2 Lactation Program, will be used to open a clinic primarily to benefit breastfeeding families of color.

The Human Lactation Program has had remarkable success in addressing racial disparities in nursing-related infant health since its launch in 2020 under the leadership of Janiya Mitnaul Williams, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Director from the program.

Funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC for the Human Lactation Program will be used to establish a new self-contained, community-based outpatient lactation clinic as well as fund scholarships and other supports for students enrolled in the certificate program. higher education, which is housed in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Through classroom instruction and over 300 supervised clinical hours, the program prepares students for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant exam. The future clinic will provide students with the clinical experience they also need, while benefiting families in the area.

“By having the clinic attached to the educational program, we can attract people who want to join the profession as well as help families in the community who need additional lactation support,” said Williams, who has worked in the field both in clinical practice at Cone Health’s Alamance Regional Medical Center and now in academia.

Research has long established that breast milk is the healthiest first food for babies. However, the lack of culturally appropriate guidance can be a barrier preventing black and brown families from widely adopting the practice.

“Over the past 50 years, African Americans have had lower rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration than other races. At the same time, black babies have higher infant mortality and infants Blacks have higher risks of obesity, SIDS and female cancers that breastmilk can protect against than other races,” Williams said. “We need to challenge our cultural assumptions and break down barriers to breastfeeding so we can change those results. A good way to start doing that is to train more lactation consultants who are like the families they serve.”

One of only two lactation programs housed at historically black colleges and universities in the United States, A&T’s program trains students to work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, for public health organizations, in their own private and community practices in ways that support and encourage breastfeeding and breastfeeding, especially in marginalized communities.

“Breastfeeding is a culturally complicated topic for African-American families and families with marginalized voices,” says Williams, an Aggie alumnus who was the first black nurse and first unregistered nurse, lactation consultant in the Cone Health system. “There are historical reasons, like breastfeeding; unconscious biases from healthcare professionals, stereotypes – some healthcare providers assume that black mothers are not interested. Some black moms are uncomfortable with the topic or say, “Oh, that’s mean.” But when you ask them, ‘Why is it mean? They can’t really point to a reason.

The program took a major step toward that goal last spring, when its first class of 11 students graduated, preparing to take the credentialing exam to become International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants.

“We’re already making a difference,” Williams said. “This program is one of nine similar programs in the world and one of the few to require an undergraduate degree first. The program is taught face-to-face and emphasizes communication and cultural diversity in every course. Working in healthcare, I found that was the missing piece.

Dean Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D. and Valerie Giddings, Ph.D., Department Chair, are thrilled with the positive feedback and support the program has received from healthcare and community partners. The program has been added permanently to the university’s course offering.

“Ultimately, I expect this program to be a model for other HBCUs so that we can really expand the program and its benefits nationally,” Giddings said.

“The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences thanks Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC for their generous investment in the health of mothers and infants of color,” Ahmedna said. “By providing funding for scholarships as well as for their clinical experience, BCBSNC has taken an important step in helping us diversify the profession.”

Health care providers have already started reaching out and are ready to start sending referrals as soon as the clinic opens, Williams said.

“Black Triad birth attendants have been talking about the need for this clinic for years, and now it’s finally happening thanks to A&T’s program,” she said.