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Jan. 15, 2019

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A grant of more than $870,000 from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation will assist families with breastfeeding support and information, helping build a healthier Waterloo Region.

The funding was recently awarded to the Building Supportive Breastfeeding Communities campaign, a collaboration between the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, professors from Wilfrid Laurier University's Manulife Centre for Community Health Research and Sandra Hoy, an assistant professor at Laurentian University.

"I am elated that the efforts of the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research to work meaningfully within the community have been rewarded," said Ginette Lafrenière, an associate professor at Laurier and director of the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research.

The Building Supportive Breastfeeding Communities campaign will utilize partnerships to improve hospital-to-community breastfeeding supports and engage priority populations to increase breastfeeding rates across Waterloo Region. Peer support is key to the campaign, which will expand upon services offered by the current Breastfeeding Buddies program at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre.

The campaign also has a goal to make Waterloo Region a community where breastfeeding is welcomed anytime, anywhere.

"The campaign aims to make Waterloo Region a community where all families have the support and information they need to establish and maintain a positive breastfeeding experience," said Hoy. "More than 90% of women initiate breastfeeding at birth, but we see those numbers decline from birth to the time they leave the hospital and it continues to decline after that."

Laura Manning, executive director of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, said the Building Supportive Breastfeeding Communities campaign is focused on areas the foundation cares deeply about: primary prevention, the healthy development of children, increasing the capacity of the community and strengthening bonds between caring adults and children.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to further the work of the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre and its partners," said Manning. "Many families will benefit, and with high-quality academic research linked in, those results can be widely shared. This was the largest single commitment in our recent children’s initiatives granting envelope and the size of the grant reflects the potential we see in the project.”

Hoy, who previously served as director of research projects at the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research, said studies show that breastfeeding creates short- and long-term benefits to the health and well-being of children, mothers and communities. Those benefits include reduced infant and child respiratory, gastrointestinal and ear infections, reduced type 2 diabetes, reduced childhood obesity and reduced childhood cancers. Breastfeeding also provides health benefits to mothers, including a reduced risk of invasive breast cancer.

A research component of the Building Supportive Breastfeeding Communities campaign will see academics from Laurier and Laurentian conduct evaluation and research work surrounding its implementation. Researchers will assess the implementation of a peer support pilot program that has brought the Breastfeeding Buddies program into the labour and delivery department at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, a model that is among the first of its kind in Ontario. The result will be increased access to accurate, evidence-based breastfeeding information and supports for new mothers in hospital and the wider community.

"This project came to fruition within a framework of university-community collaboration," said Lafrenière. "The efforts that we have deployed in tandem with our placement students, faculty and community partners is a testimony to the roles that public intellectuals can and should play within community development initiatives in the Waterloo Region."


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