A new research paper co-written by Healthy Children Project’s Anna Blair, with Ellie MacGregor of the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice and Nikki Lee, a Philadelphia-based lactation consultant and public health researcher, was published in the April 2020 issue of the journal Frontiers in Public Health. “Childhood Obesity and Breastfeeding Rates in Pennsylvania Counties—Spatial Analysis of the Lactation Support Landscape” explores the links between childhood obesity, breastfeeding rates, and access to lactation support providers (LSPs) based on geographical location in Pennsylvania.
Childhood obesity has been increasing over the past four decades. Strong evidence suggests that infant feeding choice is a primary factor contributing to childhood obesity in early life. The paper examines how barriers in access to lactation support for residents of rural areas of Pennsylvania have adversely affected breastfeeding and childhood obesity rates relative to more affluent and densely populated geographic regions. In addition, the report found a lack of Baby-Friendly designated hospitals in rural areas and a lower percentage for the state overall (5.6%) compared to the U.S. average (16.7%).
The data outlines a pathway towards decreased childhood obesity and improved long-term public health by increasing the number of LSPs in rural areas and making lactation support affordable to lower-income residents. In addition, the research can be used as a blueprint for improving access in other states.