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Health Unit baby and breastfeeding program gets A-plus score

SIMCOE, Dec. 21, 2006 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Well Baby and Breastfeeding Clinics have received top marks in a survey of women using the program.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the clinics and would recommend them to other women. The recently completed evaluation survey shows the clinics are valued for their social and emotional support, as well as providing a wealth of health-related information about rearing an infant. Most mothers sought the clinics’ services during the first two months of parenting.

“Most women can recall the general uncertainty they felt with the first baby,” said Public Health Nurse Judith Hayman, Lactation Consultant and Project Lead for Breastfeeding. “Women tell us, both casually and in formal research, that support is essential in the early weeks, especially if they are breastfeeding.”

Begun in 1996, the Health Unit clinics run once a week at Ontario Early Years Centres in Simcoe, Caledonia and Dunnville. The clinics give new parents an opportunity to meet one another in an informal setting and provide information, education and encouragement for all parents of infants, with a focus on families who breastfeed.

The survey, which drew 125 respondents, was conducted in 2006 and covered women who attended the clinics from September 2004 to September 2005. Participants were asked several questions about the program, including how well it is run, the suitability of locations, the quality of service and staffing, and health outcomes.

Mothers especially liked the easy access to information and friendly knowledgeable staff. More than 50 per cent of respondents also cited benefits such as a sense of belonging, improved connection to the community, establishing trust with other moms and staff members, and felt they were participating in community life. Most mothers also said the clinics helped them make better choices for their babies’ health, including the ability to anticipate babies’ growth and development. More than 68 per cent said the clinics helped them feel more confident as mothers.

“We wanted to find out if the Health Unit program was delivering the right service in the right way,” said Epidemiologist Deanna Tries, who conducted the survey. “The high degree of satisfaction expressed through the survey assures us that the Health Unit is doing a good job meeting a very important community need.”

“Prior to conducting the survey, we already knew that about 25 per cent of all women with babies in Haldimand and Norfolk come to the clinics at least once,” Hayman said. “Many will continue to attend regularly or occasionally throughout baby’s first year.”

The survey shows most women first heard about the clinics from public health nurses and/or the Health Unit’s Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program.

“When we are informed of a birth, we make a point of contacting the mother,” said RoseAnne Maracle-Ringuette, Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program Coordinator. “Virtually 100 per cent of women are contacted by phone, most within two days of coming home, and more than 60 per cent of them have a home visit by a public health nurse.”

The survey report recommends investigating expansion of the Well Baby and Breastfeeding Clinics to other locales to better serve the two counties, and exploring rural health disparities that may prohibit access to services, such as social isolation, lack of awareness, lack of transportation or lack of access to health care services. The report also suggests outreach to special populations, such as teens and the low-German-speaking community.

For more information about the Well Baby and Breastfeeding Clinics, call 519-426-6170 or 905-318-5367.

Media contacts: Deanna Tries, Epidemiologist, Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext. 3215. or
RoseAnne Maracle-Ringuette, Program Coordinator, Healthy Babies Healthy Children, Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, 905-318-5367 Ext. 305