Extraordinary things are happening in Montana to improve health through physical activity and nutrition programs, projects and policies. The purpose of the Eat Right Montana and Action for Healthy Kids Health Hero award program is to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding efforts by those striving to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to improve the well being of all Montanans.
In December 2014 the Blackfeet Community Hospital became the second Baby-Friendly designated hospital in Montana. Under the helm of The World Health Organization and UNICEF, Baby-Friendly is a prestigious International designation that acknowledges maternity hospitals that have implemented the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding and best practices in infant nutrition and post-partum care. On average, BabyFriendly designation takes hospitals four years to implement the changes in policy and maternity care practices. The Baby-Friendly team at Blackfeet Community Hospital completed this rigorous designation process in just 1-1/2 years!
The Blackfeet Indian Health Service Hospital faces different obstacles than other birthing hospitals in Montana. During the process the BabyFriendly Designation team collected data that indicates 50 percent of their babies are born to mothers dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, other health and financial factors facing the Indian Health Service area of Browning create many barriers to supporting moms to breastfeed their babies. However, staff members are always available for a phone call, a visit or to speak with and offer support and guidance to other Montana hospitals that are undergoing the relentless BabyFriendly Designation process.
Blackfeet Hospital’s journey toward Baby-Friendly Designation and infant nutrition assessment revealed areas where their hospital needed to offer more support for young families in the community. Two coalitions were developed to meet the needs of mothers who were dealing with drug-addicted babies and how they could ensure continued community support of these families as they were being transferred out of their community to other Montana hospitals with higher level NICU’s.
The staff at Blackfeet Hospital work hard to provide great care with very limited resources. Charlene Ramirez and Kristen Krane were two outstanding individuals in the Browning community who worked tirelessly to achieve the prestigious Baby Friendly Hospital designation, making Blackfeet Hospital one of only two that have completed the designation.
Other Health Hero Award winners across the state this year include Chris Emerson from OPI in Helena for her excellent work with schools across the state; Connie and Dean Grenz from Boulder for their work with afterschool exercise programs and community gardens; Patti Armbrister from Hinsdale School for her tireless work as a champion for sustainable agriculture, FFA leadership and creating an outdoor garden classroom model.
In Missoula there were four winners, including Donna Gaukler and Ryan Yearous from Missoula City Parks and Recreation for outstanding achievements in promoting physical activity for all ages and abilities; Garden City Harvest for their work in connecting people of all ages with growing and enjoying fresh produce; and Linsey Wiseman for establishing the Mother’s Milk Bank of Montana, the only human donor milk bank in the contiguous five state region that includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Health Hero awards from Eat Right Montana and Action for Healthy Kids were presented at the annual Eat Right Montana/Action for Healthy Kids Meeting in Helena on Oct. 23. Additional information about the Health Hero awards and Eat Right Montana can be found on Eat Right Montana’s Facebook page.