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Impact of implementation of a breastfeeding education program: Prospective evaluation of a community medical student-led program

Shed, Allisyn
Johnson, Janel H.
Introduction/Objectives: Among children born in 2019, only 77% reported having ever been breastfed in Oklahoma, while the national average of that year was 83%. These reported rates expose the gap in breastfeeding in Oklahoma. Specifically, in Cherokee County within Oklahoma, that percentage is 78%. This deficit in the percentage of breastfed infants in Oklahoma is significant because breastfeeding provides an array of health benefits to both baby and mother. In babies, breast milk provides essential nutrients and natural passive immunity. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risks of asthma, obesity, and type I diabetes. It benefits the mother breastfeeding by reducing the chances of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian and breast cancer. While breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant nutrition, there are several barriers to breastfeeding that the mother can face that should be considered. Issues like latching, concerns for the infant's weight and growth, the limited choices of medications that the mother can use, lack of support from family or in the workplace, lack of education about breastfeeding, and cultural stigmas all contribute to if or how prolonged breastfeeding occurs.
Methods: To encourage the increase in breastfeeding among newborns in Cherokee County, specifically the town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a program has been implemented to provide educational sessions to inform expecting mothers who are in their third trimester of the benefits of breastfeeding and teach best-practice techniques. Participants are gathered by flyers advertising the details of the program and a QR code that will link to a survey where their contact information can be submitted to track interested participants for follow-up. Pre- and post-program surveys are given to each participant to document demographic information such as age and ethnicity, how they feel about breastfeeding, their reasons for breastfeeding, if they intend to breastfeed their child, and if they have initiated breastfeeding after the program. The program uses an evidence-based curriculum to teach participants how to breastfeed with models and dolls for a hands-on approach. Each cohort consists of a 4-week long curriculum that includes three educational sessions and a question-and-answer portion.
Results: The implemented breastfeeding program is ongoing, and data is still being collected. Three cohorts made of six participants total have completed the program at this time.
Conclusions: The goal of this study is to highlight the impact of the breastfeeding education program in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, by evaluating the initiation rates of breastfeeding among participants of the program. The purpose of this presented data is to showcase the midpoint progress that has been made.