Saint Francis Receives W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant for Breastfeeding Program

$498,980 to support a peer counseling program  

(Hartford, Conn. December 29, 2014) - Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, in partnership with The Hispanic Health Council, has received a $498,980 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to expand a “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” program to low-income African-American and Hispanic mothers who are patients at the Saint Francis Center for Women’s Health.

The breastfeeding program, developed and currently delivered in other Hartford neighborhoods by The Hispanic Health Council in partnership with Hartford Hospital, recruits, trains, and hires women from Hartford’s low-income neighborhoods who have successfully breast-fed their own infants for at least six months. The rigorous training prepares these women to become breastfeeding peer counselors.

“Breast milk is the perfect food for babies,” said Walter Trymbulak, M.D., Ph.D, Director of the Center for Women’s Health. “Low-income women in Hartford have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the state. This grant will help us change the culture of formula-feeding the babies of the women who use our Center.”

The Center for Women’s Health located at 1075 Asylum Avenue and its satellite office in the Burgdorf Health Center provide full service obstetric and gynecologic care to the women of Hartford and the surrounding communities.  The Center does over 12,000 patient visits each year and cares for over 600 pregnant women each year.  In serving the Saint Francis mission the Center offers health and wellness programs to all women regardless of insurance status.

Jose Ortiz, The Hispanic Health Council’s President and CEO, states, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this important and evidence-based service to the patients at the Saint Francis Center for Women’s Health. This is another opportunity for the two organizations to partner in addressing health disparities.”

Over a decade of studies has shown that “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” raises the rates of 6-month and 12-month breastfeeding in low-income African-American and Hispanic women in other sections of Hartford. Now, with the support of the Kellogg Foundation grant, mothers in Saint Francis’ neighborhoods will have the same high-quality peer counseling to help them overcome obstacles to breastfeeding.

The peer counselors from “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” will begin working with expectant mothers during their pregnancy, helping to educate them on the health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers. After the babies are born, the peer counselors will visit the mother each day at Saint Francis and assist the Hospital’s certified lactation consultants in helping the mother initiate breastfeeding.

When the mothers and their babies return home, the peer counselors make home visits to ensure that the breastfeeding is going well, to assist with any issues or problems that arise, and to offer continued encouragement to the new mother. The peer counselors are also available by cell phone at all times to answer mothers’ questions or to help solve any emergent problems.

Studies have shown that intensive peer counseling increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, and is successful in populations that have historically low rates of 6-month and 12-month breastfeeding.

Peer counseling is even more effective when the counselors share the same racial/ethnic, economic and language background as the mothers they support. Counselors help mothers overcome pain, discomfort, and feelings that the infant is not receiving enough nutrition. Intensive peer counseling in guiding mothers during the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding also increases the probability that mothers will choose to fully breastfeed any additional infants they may have in the future. After six months of exclusive breastfeeding, the peer counselors help mothers introduce appropriate baby foods and remain as a resource for mothers who decide to continue supplementary breastfeeding to 12 months.

Research has established that breast milk is the ideal “first food” for infants.  In the first few days after birth, the antibody Secretory Immunoglobulin-A is present in large amounts in colostrum (the early milk). This and other antibodies in breast milk strengthen the baby’s immune system. Breast milk: is easier to digest; protects against diarrhea and constipation; reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; decreases the risk of asthma, respiratory infections, allergies, and eczema; contains essential nutrients for the development of the brain, eyes, and nervous system; helps in the development of the mouth and jaw; increases the baby’s feeling of comfort and reinforces a strong emotional bond with the mother.

Research also shows that breast-fed babies: are less likely to be overweight or obese in childhood; are less likely to develop childhood cancers and diabetes; may have fewer behavioral, psychological, and learning difficulties as children; may have increased intelligence levels compared to formula-fed children; and have lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure in childhood.

Pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and complementary breastfeeding up to 12 months.

About The Hispanic Health Council 

The Hispanic Health Council (HHC) is a nationally recognized community-based organization that operates statewide in Connecticut. HHC works to improve the health and social well-being of Latinosand other diverse communities through community-based research, evidence-based directservices, provider training and policy advocacy.Sinceits inception, the organization has developed, evaluated, replicated and disseminated community health worker models to support health promotion andchronic disease management. The Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride Program is one of those models. HHC also has decades of experiencedeveloping and utilizingsuccessful techniques for engagement of high-risk, hard to reach populations, and culturally relevanteducational materials and social marketing campaigns targeting individuals and communities with low health literacy.HHC serves over 20,000 individual across the state annually. For more information, visit 

About Saint Francis Care 

Saint Francis Care is an integrated healthcare delivery system established by Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, an anchor institution in north central Connecticut since 1897.  Licensed for 617 beds and 65 bassinets, it is a major teaching hospital and the largest Catholic hospital in New England.  Other major entities of Saint Francis Care include The Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, the Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute, the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute of Connecticut, the Saint Francis/Mount Sinai Regional Cancer Center, the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research, and Saint Francis HealthCare Partners.  Johnson Memorial Medical Center, parent organization of Johnson Memorial Hospital, Evergreen Health Care Center, and Home and Community Health Services are also Saint Francis Care Partners.  Saint Francis Care’s services are supported by a network of five major Access Centers and eight additional medical office centers sited throughout the region.  For more information, visit 

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work, and life.  

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United State and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit