- June 13, 2012
- 12:01 am
Breastfeeding in Rogers Park
But asking local businesses and mothers about their feelings on breastfeeding? One Health Systems Management class had this unconventional task this past semester, and their work has paid off by helping a local private provider of primary health with education efforts on breastfeeding in Rogers Park.
With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing in Chicago, Peg Dublin of Access Community Health, received a grant from the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) to start a program to promote breastfeeding in Rogers Park. Though breastfeeding may not seem like an obvious way to prevent obesity, in addition to providing babies with invaluable minerals and vitamins, Loyola nursing professor Dr. Regina Conway-Phillips says breastfeeding helps children learn not to overeat.
“When the infant is bottle fed, the mom will continue to feed the baby even until they are full,” she says. “Breastfeeding teaches children self-limiting.”
After consulting various sources at Loyola, Dublin connected with Dr. Conway-Phillips who was teaching Health Systems Management 110, Health Care In America, and decided the class would be a good fit for the project.
Health Care In America ordinarily has a service learning component, says Conway-Phillips, and she saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate the state of healthcare being discussed in lecture, right in the neighborhood surrounding Loyola. She divided her students up into 9 groups, each corresponding with one of the police beats in Rogers Park, and asked them to go into the community and ask mothers and business owners what they thought about breastfeeding in public. The project spanned the entire semester, and at the end, students presented their findings to Dublin and recommended how best to promote breastfeeding in Rogers Park based on their interviews and observations.
Noel Andrew, a senior health systems management major who was in the class, admits he was a little apprehensive at starting the project.
“[I thought] that I would be horrible at it, and I would not be much help,” he says. “I also have never seen someone get kicked out of a business for publicly breastfeeding before, but I also haven’t noticed any mothers breastfeeding in public either.”
However, Andrew says he became more comfortable with the project as he learned what people were up against in the community. Two women his group talked to were from Europe, and the women told the group they felt they did not have the freedom to breastfeed in public, because of the way some Americans have treated them when they had in the past. Conway-Phillips says this is a problem unique to Rogers Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago and often a port of entry for new immigrants.
“Rogers Park is a melting pot, it has multiple, multiple cultures,” says Conway-Phillips. “One of the things that students found is that people who came from another country said they would breastfeed when they were in their own country, but when they came to the U.S., they tried to acclimate to becoming an American, and their impression is that Americans frown on breastfeeding.”
In addition, Conway-Phillips says that students found most business owners did not have a policy on breastfeeding, and many mothers did not know the full benefits of breastfeeding. Dublin says when the students presented their findings to her, these were not necessarily surprises, but provided the material data they needed to create a plan of action for education on breastfeeding in Rogers Park. She hopes to involve some of the students in implementing the education efforts.
Aside from the benefits of the project to Rogers Park, Conway-Phillips points out that completing the assessment offered a way to bring her class discussions about inequalities in healthcare to life for the students.
“Being lectured about inequalities helped students understand the issues in a much more realistic way. Once they got out on the streets and actually talked to people who didn’t have insurance, didn’t feel that they had access to basic healthcare, let alone access to breastfeeding care, it really brought the lecture material home for them.”
For more on Access Community Health, visit their website here.