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Health Board launches breastfeeding outreach

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Health Board member Renato DelaCruz, left, speaks to Deputy Commissioner Robert Sproul prior to a February meeting. The board will work with area businesses to form a breastfeeding policy to comply with federal requirements.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Board of Health is launching a new outreach to facilitate breastfeeding policies in the workplace.

The board heard from Director of Nursing Linda Mehl during its February meeting and approved an internal lactation policy.

Mehl said the Belmont County Health Department received a grant to facilitate the development and implementation of lactation policies and spaces in Belmont County businesses and agencies. The program will focus on employers with more than 50 employees.

In a release, Mehl said nursing mothers need to express milk at work to continue to provide human milk for their infants and it is essential to create policies and accommodations to support staff who may be thinking about continuing to breastfeed after they return to work. She said this project will benefit the employers by reducing absenteeism and increasing employee satisfaction and retention. Mehl said breastfeeding is important for the employee due to health benefits for both mother and baby.

The Belmont County Health Department and WIC staff will be scheduling appointments with local businesses and agencies to promote the project and provide technical assistance for the creation of the policies and appropriate spaces.

The lactation space cannot be a bathroom according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and reasonable break times for the employees should be provided.

For more information, call the Belmont County Health Department at 740-695-1202, ext. 140.

“We are reaching out to at least 10 businesses in Belmont County, or other agencies. We’re going to help them develop those policies,” Mehl said.

“It’s going to be individualized, based on the business, so depending on their room and the size of the business and agency and how far they’re willing to go with it. If they can just do a policy or if they can establish even a space,” she said.

Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul said federal law requires a breastfeeding policy, although there are exceptions for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

“They’re trying to get businesses to promote breastfeeding in their organizations and allow for that, so she’s wanting to update our policy,” he noted. “That way we can use that as an example.”

Sproul also said the District Advisory Committee will meet in March, and the board is coordinating with the township and the mayors associations to set a date. Sproul noted there must be a quorum to conduct business, including one county commissioner.

“They review our budget, and they also put on a board member,” Sproul said, adding that Stacey Brown-Brocklehurst has announced her resignation late last year. A new board member will be selected. There are four years left in the term.

Sproul added that board member Renato DelaCruz’s term is also ending, but he may be reappointed for another five-year term.

“The makeup of a board has to have one physician, and he’s our physician,” Sproul said.

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