March 3, 2018, East Orange, NJ: First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy and Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal recently joined the East Orange WIC Clinic to promote, celebrate and educate the public on the benefits of breastfeeding, particularly in the African American community.
Murphy, Elnahal and East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green made opening remarks during the Feb. 27th Black History Month event, “Black Breastfeeding: Rediscovery and Restoration of a Legacy,” which included a standing-room-only crowd of participants and a robust panel discussion with doula, breastfeeding and health care experts from around the state.
East Orange WIC Coordinator Chesney Blue said recent studies and subsequent media reports have shone a spotlight on high rates of black infant and maternal mortality. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black infants have a 2.2. times higher rate of infant mortality, are 3.2 times likely to die from low birth weight, and are twice as likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than non-Hispanic whites.
In New Jersey, black infants are over 3 times as likely to die before their 1st birthday compared to white infants.
“Breastfeeding is known to help reduce infant mortality due to the high immunological benefits human milk offers,” said Blue, who manages a staff of 17 serving a predominantly African American and Hispanic population of over 5,000 enrolled participants in three locations in East Orange, Bloomfield and Montclair.
Mayor Green commended the hard work of the staff, highlighting the fact that the clinic’s breastfeeding rate has increased by 8.6% over the last four years. He also acknowledged the recent tragic passing of East Orange police veteran Sgt. Tahmesha Dickey.
“As a community, we were hit especially hard earlier this year when we lost Sgt. Dickey during childbirth,” said Mayor Green. “We know that raising awareness around the issues of maternal health is critical to our community’s overall health and I anticipate that this dialogue is just the beginning of more opportunities to educate all those we serve, especially the most vulnerable among us.”
The program was coordinated under the Department of Health and Human Services and included the following additional participants: Vickie Nizin, IBCLC, Breastfeeding Manager, City of East Orange WIC Program , Jeanne McMahon, Director of Health and Family Support Projects, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), OB/GYN Dr. Damali Campbell, MD of University Hospital , Neonatologist Dr. Onajovwe Fofah of University Hospital, Rachel Jean Miles, SPAN Doula, Arelis Martinez- SPAN Community Health Worker, The Warden Family, and Jill Wodnick, Doula and Childbirth Educator.
For more information on the East Orange WIC Clinic, please call 973.395.8960.