Hoping to dispel harmful myths and stigmas about breastfeeding, an Albert Einstein College of Medicine program hopes its new public service campaign can help increase post-hospital breastfeeding in the Bronx, where rates are the lowest in town.
The Bronx Healthy Start campaign shines a spotlight on breastfeeding mothers and their various support systems, including doulas, grandmothers, fathers, nurses and more, and permeates iconic Bronx landmarks and spaces in community gathering. According to the University at Albany, only 43% of infants in New York State were exclusively breastfed in the hospital, and breastfeeding rates declined after hospital discharge and over time.
Medical experts say that breastfeeding can significantly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute otitis media, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases, asthma, allergies, infections of the lower respiratory tract, obesity, diabetes (type I and II) and other life-threatening infant diseases. There are also benefits for the mother that could reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
“Breastfeeding is important for mothers and babies, but comes with many barriers and challenges. Bronx Healthy Start is working to create a level of awareness throughout the Bronx to break some common misconceptions and stigmas about breastfeeding” , said Alma Idehen, co-director of the Bronx Healthy Start Partnership’s Department of Family and Social Medicine, “This campaign aims to protect and support those who are breastfeeding and to ‘normalize’ breastfeeding as a choice for families in the Bronx. “
The Bronx continues to rank lowest in health outcomes — 62 out of 62 counties — in New York State, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings Report. The Bronx also has the highest maternal mortality rate, which has become a priority for the administration of Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.
On Aug. 31, 2021, Gibson, then a New York City council member, was joined by birthright advocates and health officials as she announced more than $400,000 in city council funding to fight against the high infant and maternal mortality rates in the Bronx.
Gibson has allocated $150,000 to Gotham Health, Morrisania, to support its breastfeeding peer counseling program that provides low-income mothers with comprehensive breastfeeding services, and more than $200,000 to Bronx Health Link, Inc. , for their doula program. Both programs were funded this year with the goal of reducing poor health outcomes for people giving birth and children in the Bronx, as the Bronx continues to have one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. high in the city.
Data shows that New York State has a relatively high maternal mortality rate compared to other states in the country, with 20.8 deaths per 100,000 population in 2018. In 2017, most pregnancy-related deaths in New York occurred in Brooklyn (33%) and the Bronx (29%).
The data also highlighted a significant racial disparity, with black women being eight times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications due to several factors, including: systemic racism and discrimination in the health ; comorbidities that may affect the health of the mother during childbirth; access to patient-affirming care by a culturally competent health profession; and a myriad of other risk factors that can disproportionately impact the health of a woman of color.
Contact Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes