Consultants available, classes are planned

Pawnee County Health Department has been awarded a three year grant by the Kansas Health Foundation to support breastfeeding mothers and babies as part of a Kansas Breastfeeding Initiative.

The Lactation Assistance Access in all Counties Taking Action (LAACT-Action) project will address the need to increase breastfeeding rates by providing professional breastfeeding support to expectant women through prenatal breastfeeding classes and support to breastfeeding mothers after delivery.

Public Health Departments in 20 counties have agreed to assist in linking physician referred expectant or breastfeeding women to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in their area.

The 2014 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Breastfeeding Report Card reports 11.4 percent of Kansas mothers are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, ranking only higher than two other states, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The national Healthy People 2020 Objectives for exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months are 25.5 percent. While breastfeeding rates are low in Kansas, we actually rank higher than the national average for the number of IBCLCs per 1,000 live births. National average is 3.48 and Kansas is at 3.76.

Research has shown that professional lactation support can help mothers initiate and continue breastfeeding. Throughout US history, it has been public health that has responded time and again when breastfeeding rates have been low.

Because breastfeeding is a crucial step in disease prevention, it remains a priority for public health to protect and support breastfeeding.

The Kansas Health Foundation and United Methodist Health Ministry Fund announced the funding for a Kansas Breastfeeding Initiative to support organizations in further developing and implementing breastfeeding initiatives in coordination with health care systems, health care providers, public health professionals and community efforts through implementation of CDC Recommended Strategies to promote and support breastfeeding mothers and babies.

Pawnee County Health Department Administrator, Robin Rziha, knew this was an opportunity for public health to make a difference that is much needed in Kansas. With the many known health risks of not breastfeeding for infants, children, and mothers, breastfeeding is a key strategy to improving health over the lifespan.

Experts at CDC estimate that 15 to 20 percent of obesity could be prevented through breastfeeding but it is exclusive breastfeeding which best protects against obesity.

The Kansas Health Summit on Breastfeeding was hosted in September 2014 by the Kansas Health Foundation and United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in Wichita. The purpose of the Summit was to determine priority recommendations for Kansas to improve breastfeeding rates. Collaboration began to create a project that merged public health with providing mothers and babies with direct breastfeeding support.

Rziha feels this will have a large impact as she found interest across a 20 county service area. This project is intended to compliment breastfeeding promotion and support efforts that have already begun in these counties over the last several years.

Three lactation consultants will cover services in three regions.

Region #1 will utilize the services of Pawnee County Health Department Administrator Robin Rziha, IBCLC for Barton, Ellsworth, Ford, Hodgeman, Ness, Pawnee, and Rice counties.

Region # 2 will be covered by Julie Fields, IBCLC for Barber, Comanche, Edwards, Harper, Kingman, Kiowa, Pratt, and Stafford counties.

Region # 3 will utilize Monique Holmes, IBCLC for Ellis, Rooks, Rush, Russell, and Trego counties. Other members of the grant team include:

• Dr. Jenny Manry, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Advanced Practice in the Nursing Department at Fort Hays State University as well as Family Nurse Practitioner in Larned, will serve as a data analyst for the grant and will aid in the development of surveys that will assist in the evaluation of the grant objectives.

• Cristine Goodwin, M.D., Family Practice physician practicing in Larned, with a special interest in women’s health, will serve as a Medical Consultant for Lactation Services.

• Sabra Dupuis, Pawnee County Health Department office manager, will serve a key role as data entry personnel for the grant.

• Heather Cobb, Pawnee County Health Department fiscal office assistant, will provide grant tracking and will aid in insurance billing and coding.

Rziha’s goal is to give all moms access to professional lactation assistance. While IBCLCs are available in most regions of Kansas, they are rarely available through healthcare establishments especially in rural areas.

Pawnee County Commissioners, Donna Pelton, Kathy Bowman, and Gary Caplinger, agreed in open session to allow the Pawnee County Health Department staff to both administer and participate in the LACCT-Action grant.

Without the support of a progressive Board of Health for Pawnee County, the project would have never been possible.

Sustainability of the project will be built upon through financing strategies for breastfeeding support under the Affordable Care Act. The recent Preventive Services rule change that allows insurance reimbursement for non-licensed health workers who provide a preventive service upon referral from a licensed health care provider will be explored with lactation education and counseling.

The project start date was July 1, 2015 and runs until June 30, 2018. Prenatal Breastfeeding Classes and IBCLC services will begin in Region # 1 and #2 in January 2016. Region # 3 will be phased in starting January 2017 unless funding sustainability is realized sooner.

For more information regarding the LAACT-Action project, contact Robin Rziha at the Pawnee County Health Department or ask your local health department for more details.

The Pawnee County Health Department LAACT-Action project is made possible through funding from the Kansas Health Foundation.

The Kansas Health Foundation is a private philanthropy dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans.

For more information about the Kansas Health Foundation, visit