Aug 132013
 
Dr. Paul Cunningham

Dr. Paul Cunningham

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has received an award from the National Medical Association.

Cunningham was one of seven deans of U.S. medical schools who received Presidential Awards on July 30 during the NMA’s annual convention and scientific assembly.

The deans were recognized for “their notable achievements and extraordinary commitment to academic excellence and medical education.”

The other deans were Drs. Charles P. Mouton of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.; Mark S. Johnson of Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.; Valerie Montgomery Rice of Morehouse Medical School in Atlanta; Danny O. Jacobs of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas; E. Albert Reece of the University of Maryland in Baltimore; and Daphne P. Calmes of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1985, the NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 35,000 black physicians and their patients.

 
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Aug 062013
 

Breastfeeding improves the health of infants, children and mothers. In particular, breastfeeding has been proven to help address many of the health risk categories where African-Americans rank the lowest in the United States. Despite these benefits, African American women appear to face significant societal barriers that keep their breastfeeding rates far below other ethnicities, especially in the southeastern United States.

It is more important than ever to make sure all mothers have access to resources that can support breastfeeding. Although more African American women are breastfeeding today than in past decades, only 58 percent of African American women are likely to breastfeed at all, compared to 77 percent of whites and 80 percent of Hispanics. So what’s preventing more African Americans from breastfeeding?

Some of the most commonly cited barriers to breastfeeding include:
• Lack of information provided during the prenatal period;
• Negative opinions of breastfeeding expressed by female relatives and the infant’s father;
• Fear of pain;
• Reluctance to breastfeed in public;
• Accepting formula feeding as the norm;
• Having to return to work or school full-time;
• Lack of employer support for breastfeeding;
• Inadequate lactation support in the hospital and at home during the postpartum period; and
• Not being sure that the baby is receiving an adequate supply of milk.

There is no one quick fix to eliminate these barriers, as many of them are supported by a variety of socioeconomic factors. But as health care providers, we can do our part to equip mothers with the education and counsel they need to initiate – and continue – breastfeeding while under our care.

In addition to helping new mothers breastfeed while under our care, new resources and community programs continue surfacing nationwide that provide everyday support for this demographic. It’s Only Natural, a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services campaign, uses video testimonials and practical educational materials to promote breastfeeding awareness and to help dispel common myths held within the African American community.

Community-based approaches such as doulas (trained professionals who provide physical and emotional support to mothers during pregnancy, at birth, and during the postpartum period) and peer counselors have also been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of breastfeeding initiation and continuation among African American women.
Additionally, women who give birth in hospitals such as Vidant Medical Center that practice according to the UNICEF and WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative standards and follow the evidence-based Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are more likely to initiate breastfeeding while in the hospital or birth setting.
Breastfeeding has been proven to get children off to a healthy start, reduce their risk of later health problems and even boost their IQ. In fact, it is estimated that $13 billion per year in health care costs could be eliminated if 90% of all mothers breastfeed their infants. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, let’s all make a commitment to tout its great benefits year round.

Pamela J. Reis, PhD, CNM, NNP-BC
Assistant Professor
East Carolina University College of Nursing

Aug 022013
 

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Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts

Stores that stock little if any healthy foods could be a contributor to obesity in urban and rural communities, but such stores could also be a catalyst for healthier eating.

That’s according to researchers at East Carolina University. Their two-part study, “Formative Evaluation for a Healthy Corner Store Initiative in Pitt County, North Carolina,” was published in the July 18 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the CDC. It is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/pcd.

Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, an associate professor of public health at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, led a team that focused on “food deserts” — urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. This lack of access to healthful foods contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

During the spring and summer of 2011, two ECU graduate assistants audited 42 stores in rural and urban areas of Pitt County, including interviews with store owners and managers and store customers. They found that healthful foods were generally less available and of lower quality in rural areas than in urban areas.

Store owners expressed a willingness to stock more fruits and vegetables if customers demanded it. Meanwhile, customers suggested they would buy and eat more healthful foods if stores stocked them.

“The take-home message was that corner stores can be an important source of food for many people in rural and urban areas of Pitt County,” Pitts said. “While corner store owners may not perceive there is demand for healthy foods, customers, at least the ones we surveyed, seemed willing to purchase healthier foods from corner stores. So if healthier foods are provided in the stores, perhaps customers would purchase them.”

Pitts’ study was part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, funded with a $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Pitt County Health Department to tackle obesity and tobacco use. Grant money was available to help stores add refrigeration and other equipment to stock produce. The research was also supported by the East Carolina University Engaged Outreach Scholars Academy and the ECU Department of Public Health.

Four county stores, Mark’s Food Mart near the Pitt County Fairgrounds, Rountree Farmers Fresh Market near Ayden, Mid-Town Grocery in west Greenville and Carolina Country Fresh in Bethel, have joined the initiative and are offering fresh produce to customers. Mark’s Food Mart reported a 30 percent profit margin on produce in 2012.

Pitts credited the following people for their work on the study: ECU public health graduate assistants Karamie Bringolf, Carmeron Lloyd and Kelly Lawton; research associate Jared McGuirt; and the CPPW team of Jo Morgan, Jean Wilkerson, Diana Vetter-Craft and Chris Green at the Pitt County Health Department.