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Q & A with Catherine Pound

What is your research focused on?
My research is focused on breastfeeding promotion, support and education of the medical community. Most of what I’m currently doing is focused on the education of residents and physicians in terms of breastfeeding counseling skills.

Tell us about a project that you’re working on.
One of my recent studies is a pan-Canadian survey of primary health care practitioners assessing their attitudes, beliefs and knowledge in terms of breastfeeding. We know that physician support is key, so we want to understand why and where it doesn’t always exist.

How will this research evolve?
Right now, we’re in the process of developing a similar pan-Canadian survey, but with residents. So we’ve tackled physicians, we’re working with residents, and next we will target other allied health professionals, like nurses, to improve breastfeeding knowledge at all levels of care.

How will you put this knowledge into action?
We have many plans in the works, but one in particular is extra exciting. We have applied to CIHR for a meeting grant to bring together breastfeeding researchers, lactation support experts, medical education researchers, community physicians, members of the public as well as key representatives from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, with the goal of developing a proposal for a study that will lead to the implementation of a breastfeeding curriculum in residency programs across the country. We already have experts and representatives from all the key organizations in our project group, so the support is there.

Why is your research important?
Breastfeeding is crucial to children’s health; a study out of Spain recently showed that for every additional month of exclusive breastfeeding, you reduce the rate of infection-related hospitalization by 30% in young infants, which is huge! In Canada, the recommendation from the Canadian Pediatric Society (and the World Health Organization) is to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. Breastfeeding initiation rates here are good at 87.3%, but at the 6th month-mark exclusive breastfeeding rates drop to 23.9%. This is quite low, so I want to increase these numbers because breastfeeding has huge potential to improve both child and maternal health.

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