Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative Trains Providers for Healthier Mothers and Babies

June 8, 2015

One of the Surgeon General's goals for Healthy People 2020, a health promotion and disease prevention effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is to increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed.

Through a three-day training workshop presented by the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Maternal and Child Health Section and Georgia Shape, more than 20 Georgia birthing hospitals are taking steps toward attaining this infant health goal with the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative.

Through DPH’s 5-STAR Hospital Initiative, birthing hospitals that establish policies, practices and environmental changes that support breastfeeding are equipped to achieve Baby-Friendly®status – a national designation for facilities that provide an optimal level of care for infant feeding and maternal health

“We would love to see all birthing hospitals in Georgia achieve Baby-Friendly status, but encourage them to create a more breastfeeding friendly environment – whether or not they achieve all ten steps for the Baby-Friendly designation,” said Seema Csukas, M.D., Ph.D., director, DPH Maternal and Child Health Section. “The Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative believes in celebrating hospitals for any steps they take toward this goal, which is why we award a star for every two steps implemented.”

Increasing the number of breastfed babies is a great beginning to building a healthier community, and supports numerous research studies that indicate a strong connection between breastfeeding and healthy infant development.

“We know that breastfed babies have a lower risk of infant death and childhood obesity – two important strategic priorities at the Georgia Department of Public Health,” said Dr. Csukas. “The Georgia 5-STAR Hospital initiative is an excellent resource to equip birthing hospitals with the technical support and education they need to nurture mothers and their infants."

Jan St. John, RNC-OB, director of the Perinatal Department at Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville, Georgia, attended the training to gain breastfeeding insights that would support her facility’s efforts to attain 5-STAR Hospital status.

“The breastfeeding training offers a better understanding of the Baby-Friendly designation steps and how we can effectively educate our staff, mothers and families,” said St. John. “We plan to apply that knowledge to our hospital facility operations to work toward receiving stars from the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative. Our OB doctors and pediatricians are aware of our participation and will play a part in helping us achieve this goal.”

The training also provided an opportunity to examine how to sustain newly implemented birthing practices at Liberty Regional Medical Center.

“We are now initiating skin-to-skin contact with all our moms immediately after delivery regardless of their feeding choice,” said St. John. “We want to give the highest quality of care to our mothers and babies and participating in this training provides the resources our facility needs to maintain these important practices.”

Since December 2014, three hospitals in Georgia have achieved the Baby-Friendly designation – DeKalb Medical in Decatur, Emory Midtown in Atlanta and Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta – with several more going through the approval process. 

Dr. Csukas hopes that the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative will inspire even more birthing hospitals to learn the importance of healthy breastfeeding practices – no matter their size or resources.

“We anticipate a large increase in the number of hospitals participating in the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative,” said Dr. Csukas. “Regardless of how many steps hospitals can complete for the 5-STAR Hospital Initiative or Baby-Friendly designation, our overall goal is to increase breastfeeding rates in Georgia. We are proud to provide a support system that ensures maternal and infant health practices remain a priority in all of our state’s birthing hospitals.”

To learn more about the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative, visit

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