(Salt Lake City, UT) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized the Bear River Health Department (BRHD) and Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) today with the Loving Support Awards for Excellence. These prestigious awards were given to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) agencies with exemplary peer counselor programs which led to an increase in the number of WIC participants who were exclusively breastfeeding at six months – 33.2% for BRHD and 22.7% for SLCoHD compared to the national average of 12.9% in 2015.
The BRHD received the Gold Premiere Award, one of only six across the nation and the first agency in the Mountain Plains WIC Region to receive the award. The SLCoHD was recognized with a Gold Award.
“Breastfeeding is a key part of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children,” said Diane Kriviski, FNS deputy administrator for Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Programs, “and the awards announced today recognize the stellar contribution of local agencies that provide breastfeeding programs and support services.”
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months provides the most health benefits for babies and mothers. Although women are aware that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for their infants, many are uncertain about what to expect and how to actually carry it out.
“WIC agencies that use the USDA Loving Support Model program enlist the help of mothers who have had personal experience with breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding support and education to other mothers. These peer counselors are then paired with other mothers based on similar characteristics such as languages spoken, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. This helps ensure information is provided in a socially and culturally sensitive way and promotes breastfeeding as a healthy part of development for both mothers and babies,” said Chris Furner, WIC program manager at the UDOH.
The BRHD WIC peer counseling program offers breastfeeding support and a lactation clinic for not only WIC participants, but all community members. The agency employs two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and peer counselors who offer free breastfeeding classes as well as out-of-clinic visits and 24/7 assistance to help breastfeeding mothers as needed. The BRHD has partnerships with local doctors, hospitals, and workplaces that work to provide a supportive breastfeeding environment for mothers.
The SLCoHD WIC peer counseling program sponsors an annual event as part of World Breastfeeding Week, held the first week in August, to provide breastfeeding resources to the community. The agency also recently hired three additional IBCLCs, bringing the total to six, and established an after-hours breastfeeding support line to provide additional help to mothers.
The WIC program provides services and supplemental foods to pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to their 5th birthday. For more information about the WIC program and to see if you qualify for WIC, visit https://wic.utah.gov/.
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Chris Furner, UDOH
Jill Parker, BRHD
Pam Davenport, SLCoHD