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Long Island Center for Pediatric Obesity Prevention Continues to Promote Child Nutrition

Stony Brook University Medical Center’s Long Island Center for Pediatric Obesity Prevention has aided 15 child care agencies on Long Island achieve the goal of attaining a New York State Department of Health (DOH) breastfeeding-friendly designation. Prior to the program’s work with the agencies, no Long Island child care centers had received the designation.

On January 20, 2011, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin issued al“Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.” The initiative outlines steps that can be taken to remove some of the obstacles faced by women who want to breast feed their babies. The “Call to Action” highlights the importance of breastfeeding and seeks to increase its practice. It also cites that 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.

“Having babies breastfeed early on puts babies in the ‘driver’s seat,’ as they can then essentially choose how much they eat,” says Leah Holbrook. M.S., R.D., Coordinator of the Center and a nutritionist in the Department of Family Medicine. “This approach is opposed to mothers and parents having their babies finish bottles, and thereby helps support the goal of preventing overeating and ultimately childhood obesity.”

With the overall goal of reducing pediatric obesity, the Center has focused its work with child care agencies on Long Island on developing a breastfeeding promotion policy that enables each child care center to apply for the DOH breastfeeding-friendly designation. Child care centers submit to a brief application process, which requires them to follow certain steps to be eligible. Such steps include offering educational materials, training staff and creating a supportive atmosphere for breastfeeding.

Only child care centers that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a program devised for low-income families, are eligible to apply for the DOH’s breastfeeding-friendly designation.

Holbrook explains that assisting the agencies to achieve the goal is another example of how the Center promotes and initiates practices and programs that prevent childhood obesity. By working with child care providers and health care providers, the Center strives to change policies and practices in order to increase breastfeeding and to lower incidences of childhood obesity.

The Center’s activities support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 program. The Healthy People 2020 goals set targets for initiation and continuation of breastfeeding. Currently, 75% of babies born in the U.S. are initially breastfed, but rates fall to 43% at 6 months and 22% at 12 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed only breastmilk for the first 6 months of life, but only 13% of babies in the U.S. meet the breastfeeding standard. Healthy People 2020 aims to increase rates to 82% ever-breastfed, 61% at 6 months, and 34% at 1 year. Exclusive breastfeeding goals are set for 44% at 3 months and 24% at 6 months.

“Another result of the addition of 15 child care centers participating in the program is an increased awareness on Long Island of practices that will hopefully persuade more mothers to choose to breastfeed their children and/or to breastfeed them longer,” adds Holbrook.

About the Long Island Center for Pediatric Obesity Prevention
Stony Brook University Medical Center's Long Island Center for Pediatric Obesity Prevention is funded by the New York State Department of Health Obesity Prevention Program. Launched in 2007, the Center coordinates with healthcare providers in Nassau and Suffolk counties to prevent, treat, and screen for obesity in women of child-bearing years, pregnant women and infants. Center programs also promote practices that reduce childhood obesity.

About Stony Brook University Medical Center:
Stony Brook University Medical Center is Long Island’s only university-based academic medical center. It serves as the region's only tertiary care center and Level 1 Trauma Center, and is home to the Stony Brook University Heart Center, Cancer Center, the Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital, the Institute for Advanced Neurosciences, and the Gastroenterology Program. Stony Brook provides Suffolk County's only Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center, state-designated AIDS Center, state-designated Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, state-designated Burn Center, ALS Center of Excellence, and Kidney Transplant Center. It is home of the nation's first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. To learn more, visit www.stonybrookmedicalcenter.org.
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