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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Professor and Nonprofit Collaborate to Decrease Obesity, Support Breastfeeding Mothers

By working with a UAlbany professor, YMCAs in New York are developing programs to combat childhood obesity and improve resources for breastfeeding mothers.

Since 2012, Dr. Christine Bozlak, associate professor of health policy, management and behavior at the University at Albany School of Public Health, has collaborated with the Alliance of New York State (NYS) YMCAs, a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for 38 individually incorporated YMCAs.

When the Alliance received a grant to help local YMCAs tackle childhood obesity, the executive director turned to Dr. Bozlak. They worked to promote healthier vending machine options and Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards for childcare programs in all of the YMCAs in NY.

Dr. Bozlak analyzed the YMCAs’ readiness and willingness to implement childhood obesity prevention-related initiatives and found that while the branches saw success, more could be accomplished in all areas — especially in supporting breastfeeding mothers.

Dr. Bozlak offered the example of a mother supervising her child swimming, but who also has a nursing infant. “Mothers run into situations where they need to nurse, but there’s no practical and private way to do so,” she said.

The NYS YMCA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that shares a management agreement with the Alliance to provide staffing and other support, used Dr. Bozlak’s analysis to secure state funding to further the work. This fall, they granted Dr. Bozlak $20,000 to conduct an 18-month pilot project that will use data from the previous studies and look at practices used elsewhere to create interventions for five YMCAs in NY. Five additional YMCAs will serve as a control group.

“This could include anything from training for staff and managers about how to support breastfeeding moms to resources to create physical space, such as lactation rooms.”