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Letter: Another of Koop’s Contributions

To the Editor:

As evidenced by the articles in the Valley News (“C. Everett Koop, 1916-2013,” Feb. 26), Dr. C. Everett Koop had an extraordinary list of accomplishments during his long life.

One of his significant “firsts” was left out of virtually all accounts I’ve read. As a person whose career took a turn in 1985 after becoming an international-board-certified lactation consultant, I was thrilled to have shared in the excitement of what Koop started when he included breastfeeding initiatives in his role as the U.S. surgeon general.

In 1984, Koop convened the first Surgeon General’s Workshop on Breastfeeding, which drew together professional and lay experts to outline key actions needed to improve breastfeeding rates. Participants developed recommendations in six distinct areas: the world of work; public education; professional education; health care system; support services; and research. Follow-up reports in 1985 and 1991 documented progress in implementing the original recommendations. The second follow-up report to that workshop proclaimed it was “a time of firsts for this nation.” These firsts were: calling attention to this method of feeding, promoting breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding.

As a result of his initiative, the Centers for Disease Control now tracks breastfeeding rates, durations and even the number of “Baby Friendly Hospitals,” board-certified lactation consultants and La Leche League leaders in each state, while Healthy People has developed goals for increasing breastfeeding.

Here in the Upper Valley, we have the honor and advantage of two hospitals meeting the stringent requirements to be called a Baby Friendly Hospital. Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital was one of the first eight in the country to become dedicated to supporting, protecting and promoting breastfeeding. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center just this past year added this initiative to its care of women and infants. These two institutions contribute to both New Hampshire and Vermont being among the top 10 states in the country to consistently meet breastfeeding goals. Koop’s dedication to breastfeeding played no small part in these accomplishments.

Mardrey Swenson

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

La Leche League Leader

West Lebanon

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