Case Study: Hispanic Health Council and Saint Francis Hospital

Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride Program (Hartford, CT)

The Cigna Foundation partnered with and provided programmatic support for the Hartford, Connecticut-based Hispanic Health Council and Saint Francis Hospital’s Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride Program in 2020. The initiative focuses on good health and well-being along with gender equality, and it aligns with UN SDGs 3 “Good Health and Well-Being” and 5 “Gender Equality.”

The benefits of breastfeeding for infants are numerous and include the promotion of sensory and cognitive development along with protection against some illnesses, such as diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfeeding also provides benefits to mothers by reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancers, including triple negative breast cancer, a cancer that disproportionately affects African-American women.

Although breastfeeding rates in Connecticut are higher than the national average, rates in Hartford are well below the national average, particularly among low-income women of color. To promote breastfeeding rates in the Hartford area, the Hispanic Health Council (HHC) developed Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride (BHP), an evidence-based breastfeeding peer counselor program that utilizes a specialized community health worker (CHW) model. Saint Francis Hospital (SFH) is collaborating with HHC to run the clinically integrated program in SFH’s Hartford outpatient OB/GYN clinic as well as in their inpatient maternity unit. In the BHP model, the peer counselor (PC) establishes a relationship with expectant mothers. During this time, the PC provides thorough prenatal breastfeeding education to set expectant mothers up for success in meeting their postpartum breastfeeding goals. Upon delivery, the PC meets the new mother in the hospital to support breastfeeding initiation. PC’s then provide regular breastfeeding encouragement through phone calls, face-to-face visits at the office, and hands-on support in the home for new mothers for up to a year following delivery.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BHP program made accommodations to continue providing lactation services to its target population while adhering to stay-at-home orders in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. In 2020 and 2021, PCs pivoted from at-home visits and face-to-face visits in the office to videoconferencing, which allowed for face-to-face contact. PCs also increased the use of text messaging. In 2021, only PCs at SFH returned to providing in-person support services, albeit part-time, so the use of these virtual supportive tools continues.

In 2021, the BHP Core Team is developing protocols and best practices for offering and using secure videoconferencing to provide both the prenatal education sessions and postpartum support.

2020 Social Impact Metrics

  • Over the past year, the SFH BHP program served over 500 women.
  • At birth, 95 percent of participants initiated breastfeeding
  • At two weeks, 34 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 89 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At one month, 25 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 76 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At two months, 34 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 59 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At three months, 23 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 43 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At four months, 17 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 38 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At five months, 19 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 34 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
  • At six months, 19 percent of new mothers were exclusively breastfeeding and 30 percent were breastfeeding at least once in 48 hours.
Mother breastfeeding her baby