HCC awarded $114,526 grand for ‘Start Strong’ project

The Healthy Communities Collaborative of Morrison County recently received a $114,526 grant to promote the “Start Strong” project, which aims to build awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. Pictured are Start Strong Task Force members front row (from left): Yvette Anez (Morrison County Public Health), left, and Karilyn Avery M.D. (Family Medical Center pediatrician). Back row (from left): Mary Kenna (HCC program coordinator), Stephanie Hakes (University of Minnesota Extension), and Peggy Martin, Diane Slimmer, Cris Vodak and Susan Okoniewski M.D., all of St. Gabriel’s Hospital. Not pictured are: Kate Bjorge (HCC), Jackie Och (Family Medical Center), Becky Schyma (Family Medical Center), Deb Sobiech (TCC Early Head Start) and Richael Weinand (St. Gabriel’s Hospital).

The Healthy Communities Collaborative (HCC) of Morrison County was recently awarded a Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) Mission and Ministry fund project grant in the amount of $114,526. The award will support a three-year project as part of the “Live Better! Live Longer!”(LBLL) initiative. The project, called “Start Strong,” aims to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates and build awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.

While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. Many mothers who attempt to breastfeed say several factors impede their efforts, such as a lack of support at home; absence of family members who have experience with breastfeeding; a lack of breastfeeding information from health care clinicians; a lack of time and privacy to breastfeed or express milk at the workplace and an inability to connect with other breastfeeding mothers in their communities.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s “Call to Action,” breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, and those who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help mothers lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Also, evidence supports that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and it may also lower the risk of osteoporosis in women who breastfeed.

The goal of the LBLL Start Strong project is to implement interventions that encourage and support breastfeeding throughout Morrison County by a) incorporating breastfeeding-friendly policies in the medical community; b) providing breastfeeding training to physicians, nurses and home visitors who work with pre- and post-natal mothers and babies;c) increasing the number of worksites in Morrison County that support breastfeeding employees and d) conducting a social marketing campaign to promote the benefits of breastfeeding.

The purpose of LBLL initiative is to inspire Morrison County residents to live better and live longer through healthy eating, moving and belonging. To learn more about LBLL or the Start Strong project, contact Kate Bjorge at the HCC office (320) 631-5675 or visit http://mocohcc.org. The HCC is a community outreach program of St. Gabriel’s Hospital.