383: Breastfeeding Partners, USVI Priorities

Carl Route Jr., Program Director for Reaching our Brothers Everywhere, says his group is on a mission to educate, equip, and empower men to increase breastfeeding rates and decrease infant mortality rates in the African-American community; Justa...

Carl Route Jr., Program Director for Reaching our Brothers Everywhere, says his group is on a mission to educate, equip, and empower men to increase breastfeeding rates and decrease infant mortality rates in the African-American community; Justa Encarnacion, Health Commissioner and Chief Public Health Officer for the U.S. Virgin Islands, discusses her team’s agenda for life after the pandemic; and leaders attending ASTHO’s Health Equity Summit for two days next month in Atlanta will learn how to create a movement for justice.

ASTHO Webpage: Power In Partners

Reaching our Brothers Everywhere Webpage

ASTHO Webpage: Health Equity Summit – A Movement for Justice

ASTHO Webpage: Be in the Know


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, March 23rd, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



ROBE's mission is to educate, equip and empower men to impact an increase in breastfeeding rates and a decrease in infant mortality rates in the African American community.



Carl Route Jr. is with robe reaching our brothers everywhere.



Our mothers and babies died at higher rates two and three times higher rates than other communities. And because of the benefits the natural benefits of breastfeeding, we espouse breastfeeding education, safe sleep education to men, so that they might get involved in saving the lives of our women and children.



Route says the organization noticed that when men came to breastfeeding classes with their partners, they had no easy way to get involved in the process.



And what we found is that men need a way to engage that's practical, so we started what is called "Hoop Therapy". ROBE Hoop Therapy is a weekly engagement of men where they play basketball, but at the same time, we are sharing resources with them. Pampers, breast pumps, breastfeeding information, the benefits of breastfeeding, maternal and child health information, and this way we're educating them.




Route says group discussions called "Boy Man Father Talks" also have provided a forum to engage men on important questions about breastfeeding.



The first question is naturally, what is your knowledge and attitude about breastfeeding? And we open up the floor with that. And then we talk about the statistics around maternal mortality, maternal morbidity and infant mortality and morbidity. And a lot of these men really they're not privy to this information. They don't know this information. So, it's like a total learning curve for them. 100% learning.



Route is part of an ASTHO webinar discussion about the power of partners to help improve the breastfeeding experience. The event is Wednesday, March 29th. There's a link in the show notes.


Public health leaders in the U.S. Virgin Islands have been thinking about life after the pandemic. Justa Encarnacion is Health Commissioner in the islands. We sat down to talk about her team's agenda during ASTHO spring meeting a few weeks ago. Here's what she told us. So, you have a lot going on pandemic aside to not only rebuild some infrastructure, but to address some systems that have needed attention for a while.



Correct. Then as the Commissioner of Health, it gives me that opportunity to not just be the Commissioner of Health but to link healthcare to other agencies as well. Human Services, the federally qualified health centers to other departments within labor is an in terms of workforce development, how do we come together and actually have that conversation that it actually benefits our healthcare system within a territory.



Talking about some of the reimbursement models we talked last year, and since then the Medicaid Cliff was avoided. So that was a good thing, I think for everybody.



I think that was wonderful. I think that it now provides increased access to care within a territory, so that's one section of it. One of the other reimbursements that we're looking at is our The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) reimbursement for hospitals, because we have not had a change for many years, close to 20 years. And so now that are in St. Croix that we have a new build, looking forward to as well as in St. Thomas. But the temporary structure may allow us to now rebase, and so that would allow more funding to come from the hospital. So, we need the same thing to our St. Croix and St. Thomas as well. And until that happens, then there's always that potential for decreased access to care. So those are things that we're looking at.



And then you're also just looking generally at modernization as it relates to infrastructure and other needs.




Not only infrastructure and looking at infrastructure, we're looking at workforce development, we're looking at information technology (IT. So one of the governor governor's plan right now is "Healthy Horizon" is an initiative that he put in place four years ago. And part of that is it and looking at our health information exchange. We don't we're not currently part of a health information exchange.



How are you feeling right now then about the trajectory of the work you're doing? Are you on the right track?



I think so. I think that linking to, talk about linkages, linking to the Association of State and Territory Health Officials and what they're doing what other states and territories are doing, allows us to take a step back and say, "Is there something we should be doing differently?" And I'm a pretty proactive person, and I'm very open so it's okay to say, "We're not doing what we're supposed to do" or you know, something, "We can learn from them. They can learn from us". Let's put everything at the table, so the energy is there. So, this gives us an opportunity to step back and refresh.



Also today, leaders attending ASTHO's Health Equity Summit next month in Atlanta will learn how to create a movement for justice. That's the theme of the two-day event set for April 25th, and 26th. You can attend in person or online, get more information using the link in the show notes.


Finally, this morning, stay up to date on the latest public health policy moves in Congress and state capitals across the country. When you sign up for ASTHO's legislative alert emails, join the list using the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information. I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Carl Route Jr.

Program Director, Reaching our Brothers Everywhere

Justa Encarnacion RN MBA HCM

Commissioner, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health