The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just awarded El Paso County Public Health with a major award for it’s work with breastfeeding mothers.
El Paso County Public Health is one of three Women, Infants and Children (WIC) agencies in Colorado among a select number of agencies in the nation to receive such an award The USDA awarded the Loving Support Award of Excellence Gold Award to El Paso County Public Health, which was among 78 agencies nationwide to be awarded. WIC agencies can apply for the Loving Support Award of Excellence awards if they have had a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program for at least one year and if they meet specific requirements related to breastfeeding, peer counseling and community partnerships.
“We are so proud of the work these agencies do to support breastfeeding and keep Colorado kids healthy,” said Heidi Hoffman, Colorado WIC Director. “This work breaks down societal barriers that prevent women from breastfeeding, improves connections between women and the peer counselors and builds community partnerships. They are an excellent model and motivation to other WIC agencies.”
Peer counselors are mothers who have personal experience with breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other mothers with whom they share various characteristics, such as language, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. In WIC, peer counselors are recruited and hired from WIC’s target population of low-income women and undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling through telephone calls, texts, or visits in the home, clinic, or hospital. Breastfeeding Peer Counselors are available afterhours to support breastfeeding moms. Only nine of the 38 Colorado agencies were eligible to apply.
“We are so proud to have been recognized for the work we do to support breastfeeding mothers,” said Amber Travis, El Paso County Public Health WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Coordinator. “We know the positive impact breastfeeding can have on women and their babies and are pleased we were recognized for our work.”
USDA made the announcement in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated during the first week of August each year to promote breast milk as the best food for baby’s first year of life. Increasing breastfeeding rates can reduce illnesses and improve babies’ health, which lowers health care costs.