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HHS Office on Women’s Health Announces Phase 2 Winners for Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge

HHS Office on Women’s Health Announces Phase 2 Winners for Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) is excited to announce the ten Phase 2 awardees of the Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge.  OWH created the national competition to identify programs that increase breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates – and decrease disparities – among breastfeeding mothers in the United States. This challenge is part of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. 

Although breastfeeding reduces the risk of short- and long-term illnesses and diseases in both mother and baby, fewer non-Hispanic Black infants (73.7%) are ever breastfed compared with Asian infants (90%), non-Hispanic White infants (86.7%), and Hispanic infants (84.1%). Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity, asthma, SIDS, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and hyperlipidemia in infants.  Additionally, breastfeeding reduces postpartum blood loss and anemia and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. To ensure infants receive the short- and long-term benefits of breastmilk, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months after birth. Furthermore, the AAP supports continued breastfeeding, along with appropriate complementary foods introduced at about 6 months, as long as mutually desired by mother and child for 2 years or beyond.

Phase 2 awardees demonstrated effectiveness in addressing breastfeeding disparities among breastfeeding mothers as well as increasing rates of initiation and/or continuation. They also demonstrated that their program has long-term sustainability and a plan to successfully replicate or expand their program. 

Phase 2 winners will be eligible to compete for five prize awards of up to $55,000 in Phase 3. To be selected for Phase 3, programs must have successfully replicated or expanded. 

The 10 awardees of Phase 2 of the Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge are listed below:

1.    African American Breastfeeding Network- Milwaukee County, Wisconsin 

Submission: Since receiving support from the Breastfeeding Challenge in 2020, the African American Breastfeeding Network (AABN) has launched and sustained the WeRISE Community Doula Program. WeRISE currently serves 180 Black birthing people, mainly in Milwaukee County. Breastfeeding initiation in families supported by WeRISE doulas is 83.3%.

2.    All Mom’s Empowered to Nurse (AMEN)- Cincinnati, Ohio

Submission:  A Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) guided project was developed in partnership with a neighborhood church in Avondale, an under-resourced, primarily African American urban Cincinnati community with low breastfeeding rates. Avondale Moms Empowered to Nurse (AMEN) was launched as a peer-to-peer support group to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. Breastfeeding initiation rates have increased from 43% to 55% (28% relative increase, 12% absolute) in the neighborhood where the project launched.

3.    Baby Café USA- Nationwide 

Submission: 12 new Café sites were added in 2022, one of which is a training site for a University Lactation Certificate program designed for those with limited financial resources. Collectively, the 148 Baby Cafés reported a total of 14,860 contacts during 2022 with Café sessions and Special Events attendance counts combined. 

4.    Breastfeeding Awareness and Empowerment (B.A.E.) - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Submission: Through a multi-pronged praxis that protects, promotes, and uplifts Black breastfeeding that builds on the principles of reproductive justice, incorporating trauma informed care practices, addressing perinatal mental health, centering racially concordant care, and supporting aspiring Black lactation support professionals, the organization addresses racial/ethnic disparities among breastfeeding families in Philadelphia.

5.    Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Project- Hillsborough County, Florida 

Submission: The REACHUP, Inc. GROWTH Doula program has been successful at supporting increased rates of breastfeeding through direct lactation support at hospital deliveries, perinatal, and postpartum home visitation services. For over 20 years, The REACHUP, Inc. has been at the center of service delivery in the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in Hillsborough County, Florida.

6.    Community Health Center of Richmond, Inc. (CHCR )- Staten Island, New York 

Submission: The Community Health Center of Richmond, Inc. (CHCR), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Staten Island, New York, has implemented the CHCR Breastfeeding Support Program. This highly successful program has documented a 168.7% increase in breastfeeding initiation and a 94.7% increase in breastfeeding continuation rates from 2017 to 2021.  

7.    District of Columbia Breastfeeding Coalition (DCBFC) - Washington, D.C.

Submission: Since 2014, the DCBFC has worked to increase the diversity of the lactation profession through its Lactation Certification Preparation Course (LCPC). Of the participants who have completed the course, an overwhelming majority have self-identified as being under-represented in the lactation field. As of September 2021, 17 LCPC participants have taken the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certifying exam with 11 successfully earning the credential. Notably, all successful exam candidates have been African American. 

8.    Healthy Start, Inc. Pittsburgh - Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Submission: Healthy Start, Inc. Pittsburgh launched the Center for Urban Breastfeeding (CUB) in 2018 as an innovative effort to address breastfeeding disparities experienced by Black women and babies in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Although state-level data shows only 76.9% of Black mothers initiate breastfeeding, 86.4% of the Center for Urban Breastfeeding participants initiated breastfeeding in 2022. 

9.    Mississippi CHAMPS Program - Mississippi

Submission: The average rate of breastfeeding initiation at MS CHAMPS hospitals increased from 49% to 77% between January 2015 (when data collection began) and July 2022, and the average rate of exclusive breastfeeding increased from 18% to 40%. During this same period, 26 Mississippi hospitals gained Baby-Friendly designation, and 79% of Mississippi births now take place in Baby-Friendly hospitals. The rate of breastfeeding initiation for Black mother-infant dyads increased 32%, from 33% in January 2015 to 65% in July 2022. 

10.     Nest for Families - Hawaii

Submission: Utilizing a secure two-way text messaging system, Nest for Families (Nest) provides collaborative peer and professional breastfeeding support to underserved families throughout the Hawaiian Islands. A majority of parents who enroll in Nest are Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NHPI), live in rural areas, and rely on Medicaid coverage. Among all Nest-enrolled NHPI families, rates of any breastfeeding at 6 months are 70% and at 12 months are 61.5%.