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  NOVEMBER 30, 2012
UNC Awarded W.K. Kellog Grant for Breastfeeding Initiative

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health has been awarded $900,000 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to evaluate First Foods, the foundation's national breastfeeding initiative. The First Foods program aims to "give children a healthy start" by ensuring more babies receive breast milk as their first food experience rather than formula.

Dr. Vijaya Hogan, clinical associate professor of maternal and child health at the School of Public Health, is principal investigator for the study. "The public health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and baby are very clear, yet there are inequities in accessibility to breastfeeding promotion, education, and ongoing support," Dr. Hogan said. "Because of this, many populations, especially African-American and low-income women, are less likely to initiate or be successful with long-term breastfeeding. "We essentially will be measuring the effectiveness of a multi-level approach in increasing breastfeeding rates and reducing inequities in historically underserved communities," Dr. Hogan said.

A key approach of the First Foods program is fostering systems-level changes more supportive of breastfeeding. These include development and promotion of "baby-friendly" practices in hospitals, practices that experts say will help accelerate a cultural shift in the acceptance of breastfeeding by making it the standard of care. The program also offers community-based doula programs, which provide ongoing support and education to new mothers. 

The evaluation will focus its efforts on Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, and New Mexico. "We feel honored to be working on this important project to assess how various strategies and combinations of strategies are working in practice," said Dr. Hogan, who was invited by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to submit a proposal.

[Photo: Dr. Vijaya Hogan]