Achieving Breastfeeding Equity: A Study of a National Breastfeeding Initiative

Vijaya K. Hogan, Diane L. Rowley, Pauline E. Brooks, Sarah N. Gonzalez-Nahm, Rachel Berthiaume, Yvette Thompson, Diana Derige

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Equity in breastfeeding could reduce excess morbidity and mortality among children and mothers of color. Few programs that support breastfeeding have been evaluated for their capacity to create equity. The aim of this study was to assess the extent to which a diverse set of national breastfeeding programs actively promoted equity. Subjects and Methods: Qualitative data collection was conducted between December 2012 and July 2013 by visits to 29 of 58 breastfeeding programs selected by the funder. Programs underwent a site visit with open-ended interviews of staff. Investigators used Atlas.ti software to code data and content analysis of qualitative evaluation data. Key categories and themes were identified to answer the questions: how do the programs conceptualize equity? and how do the organizations operationalize an approach to equity? Results: Programs had widely divergent and often limited conceptualizations of equity. Nine categories describe the equity approaches' programs used. The social, political, and environmental contexts in which programs operated varied in the degree of challenge they pose for implementing equity-focused breastfeeding methods. We found only a few programs that matched the social, cultural, and economic realities and context of women of color. Conclusions: Breastfeeding equity programs need to explicitly define and envision outcomes, and need to identify equity inhibiting policies and practices. Equity attainment is more likely to emerge from institutional transformational processes that collaborate with the populations at risk. These findings have implications for other programs addressing equity in health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-148
Number of pages7
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Community
  • Evaluation
  • Families of color
  • Health equity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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