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Niagara County Department of Health receives $20,000 MRC Challenge Award for Public Health Initiatives

by jmaloni

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Mon, Jan 20th 2014 09:55 am

The Niagara County Department of Health, which directs and coordinates the Niagara County Medical Reserve Corps Unit 0220, was awarded a $20,000 MRC Challenge Award from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, in partnership with the office of the surgeon general.

The award will fund a project to improve community health developed in response to the surgeon general's 2011 call to action to support breastfeeding, and aligns with the National Prevention Strategy Healthy Eating Priority, as well as the New York State Department of Health's breastfeeding initiative to promote nutrition and prevent chronic disease.

The MRC Challenge Award funds MRC units to carry out innovative projects in their communities that can be replicated on a national level and align with one of four focus areas: community resilience, chronic disease prevention, partners for empowered communities, and mental and emotional well-being.

"The Niagara County MRC is part of the national network of dedicated volunteers and leaders engaged in local communities across the nation whose missions are to strengthen public health, improve the response to emergencies, and build resiliency," said Capt. Rob Tosatto, director of the Division of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps. "With the challenges we face today, we must constantly look for sustainable and cost-effective ways to improve health and safety while reducing disaster and health risks. The Challenge Awards help the recipient MRC units tackle unique issues in their communities with innovative approaches, and the ideas generated can then be translated and disseminated to other units to benefit our nation as a whole."

Nearly 200 MRC units out of a total of 998 units from across the U.S. completed the application. Of the 200 applicants, only the top 29 most promising applicants in the nation received awards totaling nearly $600,000 to implement the proposed initiatives.

The Niagara County project, "Energizing Partnerships to Advance Support Networks for Breastfeeding Mothers," will begin early this year. Niagara County is the only unit in New York state to receive the Challenge Award.

"The Niagara County Department of Health is proud of the Division of Public Health Planning and Emergency Preparedness director, Elaine Roman, and public health resource/strategic national stockpile officer, Elise Pignatora, for receiving this competitive award from NACCHO," said Daniel Stapleton, public health director. "This award will allow us to apply an innovative approach to promoting and improving the health of the residents of Niagara County, especially the very young.

"As MRC director and coordinator, Elaine and Elise are to be commended for proposing a project that is based on proven outcomes for chronic disease prevention through improved health of children who are breastfed. Numerous scientific studies link breastfeeding with better nutrition and immunity, lower rates of allergies and asthma and other health benefits to mothers and children, as well as long-term health outcomes.

"According to the 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card, 34.7 percent of New York state breastfed infants received formula before 2 days of age. Only 52.6 percent of babies were breastfeed at all at the age of 6 months, and at 12 months only 28.4 percent. The project will address not only disparities across communities, but also aim to provide solutions to current challenges and barriers. Energizing and expanding current partnerships, sharing resources and reaching target populations will empower the community to include breastfeeding in the social norm. With an increase in breastfeeding mothers, the project hopes to reduce chronic disease and increase the positive health outcomes in Niagara County."

The Niagara County MRC was established July 23, 2004, and has more than 80 dedicated medical and non-medical volunteers. The MRC is recognized by the Niagara County Legislature and the U.S. office of the surgeon general. Col. Melvin Dyster, M.D., serves as MRC commander.

The MRC mission is to build medical surge capacity by identifying and training medical volunteers to respond during times of emergency, to build a disaster-resilient community by enhancing public health education in regard to health matters, and to assure all-hazard preparedness for individuals and family units.

NACCHO has worked with the Division of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps - within the office of the surgeon general - a federal government agency that oversees the national MRC network. For more information on the Medical Reserve Corps, visit www.medicalreservecorps.gov.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials represents the nation's 2,800 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities.

For more information about NACCHO, visit www.naccho.org.

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