MotherBaby Network

advocacy and commentary with a focus on Lane County, Oregon

Project Aims to Improve OR Hospital-Based Breastfeeding Services

With funding support from Oregon WIC and Multnomah County Health Department, the Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon (BCO) recently launched a new statewide project – Oregon Hospitals Partnering for Evidence-Based Infant Nutrition. This project supports hospitals in developing the evidence-based systems associated with increased rates of breastfeeding.  The project aims to promote evidence-based hospital maternity practices related to breastfeeding by offering technical assistance, convening a spring 2011 hospital summit, and supporting the formation of a hospital collaborative learning community.

Lane County’s Desiree Nelson joins the project’s four-member team:  BCO Director Amelia Psmythe, Helen Bellanca, MD, MPH, Rachel Burdon, RN, MPH, and Mary Lou Hennrich, RN and Executive Director of Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI).  Oregon WIC allocated federal funds for increasing breastfeeding rates through outreach to hospitals. Locally, Nelson is well known for co-founding Baby Connection, a phenomenally successful live demonstration of Baby Friendly step 10:

Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Arriving early and leaving well after closing time, families and babies consistently demonstrate the very real but unmet demand for weekly, drop-in evidence-based lactation support in the weeks and months following birth.

Key Backers

The BCO’s parent organization, the Oregon Public Health Institute recently formed an innovative working group for health insurers – the Oregon Health Insurers Partnering for Prevention (OHIPP). The first of its kind in the nation, OHIPP is a collaborative obesity prevention effort between health plans and public health policy advocates.

Currently, six health insurers participate in OHIPP – representing 65% of private insurance and 45% of Medicaid. Insurers contribute money to fund selected interventions. Because breastfeeding is increasingly associated with reduced risk of childhood obesity, OHIPP has selected increasing breastfeeding rates as its first collaborative public health intervention.

OHIPP’s direction could have a huge impact on breastfeeding practices in Oregon. Imagine, for example, the impact of a reimbursement system in which rates for births were higher for hospitals certified as evidence based by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. This type of innovative intervention conveys the importance of becoming evidence based and signals growing understanding that evidence-based care is preventive and effective in the long run.  In this scenario, hospitals would be incentivized to seek support and resources like those the BCO is offering through this project.

Additional critical support for evidence-based breastfeeding services comes from the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS). A recent OAHHS membership survey indicates 85% of nurse managers are aware of the gold standard for evidence-based breastfeeding support systems – the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. 39% want technical assistance and support on Baby-Friendly 10 Steps. Plans are underway for OAHHS to partner with the BCO to co-brand educational opportunities and communicate the importance of evidence-based breastfeeding support to its membership.

Hospital Outreach

The Oregon Hospitals Partnering for Evidence-Based Infant Nutrition project is in the initial outreach phase to hospitals and health system leaders. Interested hospitals are encouraged to begin forming multi-disciplinary teams for the purpose of assessing current internal practice. Representatives from these teams will be invited to participate in a Spring 2011 summit for a day of education, group facilitation and collaboration. Participants will be encouraged to form an ongoing network of communication between their facilities, to support the path toward institutional change.  Interested hospitals should contact Amelia@breastfeedingOR.org or Desiree@breastfeedingOR.org for more information.

Lane County’s PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center is one of four Baby Friendly Hosptial Initiative-designated facilities in Oregon. Community and consumer support for moving the birth center from downtown Eugene to the new Sacred Heart Medical Center campus in Springfield were centrally linked to the unwavering demand for ongoing access to evidence-based breastfeeding services. Judging by the outcomes and immense demand for these services, making them available at the county’s two leading hospitals, Sacred Heart Medical Center (SHMC) and McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center would be a tremendous boon for families and communities.

Next week, Lane County Friends of the Birth Center will release results from a recent survey taken by more than 100 local women and families describing their experiences evidence-based breastfeeding services at the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center. Demonstrating the connection between evidence-based services and consumer satisfaction, LaneCoFBC intends the survey to encourage all Lane County hospitals to achieve the Baby Friendly designation. For a copy of the survey, email lanecofbc@gmail.com. (Click here to access the survey.)

Progress already

Locally, there is positive discussion of SHMC RiverBend Labor and Delivery staff’s recent innovative and successful introduction of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth. Providing skin-to-skin as standard care is a very positive development because it is bedrock practice for developing evidence-based breastfeeding services. Babies placed skin-to-skin with their mother are more likely to be breastfed and to breastfeed for longer.

Having SHMC Labor and Delivery staff describe how front-line practices and internal systems have been altered to bring more evidence-based care to the floor is an example of useful information that could be shared at the upcoming Spring 2011 summit hosted by the Oregon Hospitals Partnering for Evidence-Based Infant Nutrition project. Attending health professionals would return to their respective hospitals with a concrete, doable action for improving mother-baby breastfeeding outcomes.

Writing on the wall

Discussion of evidence-based breastfeeding care is a roundabout way of saying hospitals should identify ways to understand and implement Baby-Friendly practices. Savvy hospitals understand consumers, legislators, government agencies, the business community and accreditation bodies have connected hospital-based breastfeeding practices with the success mothers and babies have in the months following discharge.

Perusal of the following links demonstrates a trend toward adoption of Baby Friendly language for discussions of evidence-based care. They also demonstrate large-scale convergence around breastfeeding as a top-ranking major objective in health care.

  • The Joint Commission’s new perinatal care core measure set includes exclusive breast milk feeding

The question hospitals must answer about breastfeeding services is no long whether or not to become evidence based but (1) how to do it and (2) how to demonstrate that it is being done. Because Baby-Friendly is the established and universal standard for effective breastfeeding care, pursuing and maintaining this designation answers both questions in the most expedient manner. The project’s greatest potential value to hospitals lies in the efficiencies it can generate through developing models of collaboration for identifying and removing barriers to reform. The potential for idea sharing and cost sharing for staff training and education increases significantly with each hospital’s commitment to participate.

To learn more, contact Amelia@breastfeedingOR.org or Desiree@breastfeedingOR.org for more information.

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One response to “Project Aims to Improve OR Hospital-Based Breastfeeding Services

  1. Debbie Overholt RN IBCLC January 21, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I am happy that it is now standard care at SHMC-Riverbend L&D to place newborns skin to skin with their mothers. I would just like to add that it has been the standard practice at McKenzie Willamette Med Ctr for years.

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