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Conference to Eliminate Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Coming in May

Conference to Eliminate Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Coming in May

Published: 3/7/2018

"Building Bridges Toward Equity” is the theme of the Second Annual Conference to Eliminate Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding and Infant Mortality, scheduled for Wednesday, May 3, 2017. The conference will be held at the University of Cincinnati (UC) Tangeman University Center (TUC) from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Last year’s inaugural event attracted 150 health care professionals and sold out quickly. To accommodate an anticipated larger crowd this year, the conference has moved to the Great Hall at TUC.

"The interest from last year indicates that our community has really good intentions and that people are aware that we have a huge disparity in access to breastfeeding support,” says Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Allied Health Sciences and co-chair of the conference. 

The morning session of the conference features four speakers. O’dell Owens, MD, president and CEO of Interact for Health will lead things off, followed by Colleen Kraft, MD, associate professor, UC Department of Pediatrics, medical director of the Health Network at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and president-elect, American Academy of Pediatrics. Kimarie Bugg, MSN, CEO, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, is the keynote speaker and Bleuzette Marshall, PhD, UC’s vice president for equity and inclusion, will be the final speaker.

Facilitated breakout sessions highlight the afternoon portion of the conference. Discussion topics include prenatal breastfeeding support, promotion and encouragement; community engagement through social media; and breastfeeding support beyond the hospital. 

Nommsen-Rivers says while breastfeeding positively impacts the life course of both maternal and child health, great inequities in breastfeeding initiation and duration rates still exist, particularly in the African-American community.

"African-American women in our community have the lowest breast feeding rates by far in the region and highest rate of infant mortality,” says Nommsen-Rivers. "This is a learned art, it’s like learning to ride a bike. It doesn’t work to read an instruction manual, you need to be surrounded by supportive people every step of the way.”

The lactation consultant industry is a relatively new profession and Nommsen-Rivers says it is severely lacking in diversity. According to Nommsen-Rivers, of the estimated 100 practicing lactation consultants in the Greater Cincinnati region, only one or two are African-American.

"In so many of our communities we have lost that tradition of support for mother and sister, and women are very isolated which is where it’s so important for the health care community to step in,” says Nommsen-Rivers. "It really can make a difference in breaking that cycle of generations that never breast fed.”

To register or for more information on the conference, click here.

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