Kudos to Stephanie Devane-Johnson and her entire team for the submission of the Bass Connections application entitled “Socio-historical events and cultural traditions influencing breastfeeding in African Americans.” This proposal requests funding for one-year with a start date of May 1, 2018.
Breastfeeding is associated with increased infant survival and decreased risk of common childhood illnesses such as acute otitis media, respiratory infections and asthma (Eidelman et al., 2012), African Americans have a disproportionately low breastfeeding rate compared to other race/ethnic groups. 64 percent of African American mothers initiate breastfeeding, compared to 81.5 percent of Whites and 81.9 percent of Hispanics (CDC, 2016). In a diverse cohort of low SES, 66 percent of African American moms were exclusively formula feeding at two months (Perrin et al., 2014). These disparate rates have significant negative impacts on health outcomes and child well-being (Victoria et al., 2016). African American infant mortality rates are more than twice as high as those among non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (DHHS), 2010; MacDorman & Mathews, 2013). Socio-historical factors that influence health beliefs and health behaviors include thoughts, attitudes and beliefs either personally experienced or relayed via oral histories that have been socially, generationally and culturally passed down and integrated into families and communities (DeVane-Johnson et al., 2017; Fischer & Olson, 2013; Lende & Lachionda, 2009; Krieger, 2008). These factors have not been emphasized in previous studies of breastfeeding in African American women. Further, prior studies and interventions inadequately addressed the role of the partner.
The short-term goal of the proposed project is to identify socio-historical factors that affect attitudes toward breastfeeding among 50 fathers in the African American community. The data will be analyzed in combination with data previously collected from African American mothers identifying culturally specific barriers to breastfeeding initiation (DeVane-Johnson et al., 2018). Our long-term goal is to develop a tailored, culturally relevant intervention to increase breastfeeding rates in this population.