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An Evaluation of the Effects of a Breastfeeding Support Program on Health Outcomes

Keywords: Breastfeeding;peer counselor support program;program evaluation;health outcome measurement

Objective: To estimate the causal effect of a Michigan peer counselor (PC) breastfeeding support program for low-income women on infant health outcomes.

Data Sources: Program referral forms, program forms (enrollment, birth, and exit data), and state administrative data from the Women Infants and Children program, Medicaid, and Vital Records.

Study Design: Quasi-random enrollment due to the excess demand for PC breastfeeding support services allowed us to compare the infants of women who requested services and were enrolled in the program (the treatment group, N = 274) to the infants of women who requested services and were not enrolled (the control group, N = 572). Data were analyzed using regression.

Principal Findings: The PC program increased the fraction breastfeeding at birth by 19.3 percent and breastfeeding duration by 2.84 weeks. Program participation also reduced the fraction of infants with gastrointestinal disorders by a statistically significant 7.9 percent. The program, if anything, increased the overall health care utilization.

Conclusions: This Michigan PC breastfeeding support program resulted in improvements in breastfeeding and infant health outcomes as measured by the diagnosis of ailments while increasing health care utilization.

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