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FL Surgeon General Visits Pensacola, Sacred Heart Hospital

Dave Dunwoody

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong is visiting the state’s coastal counties, as part of his “Health in All Places Tour.”

Sacred Heart President Henry Stovall welcomed Armstrong to Pensacola, saying that he has shown strong support for its recent designation as a “Baby-Friendly” hospital – through a program launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF in 1991.

“It was launched to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers, who have successfully implemented ten steps to successful breastfeeding, and have implemented the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes,” said Stovall.

Sacred Heart is one of ten hospitals in Florida – and the only one in the northwest part – with such a designation. Stovall says it represents a significant investment in the community’s health.

“We completed a very rigorous site survey earlier this year to earn this designation,” Stovall said. “We’ve learned a lot from the process.”

Prior to the ceremony in the Children’s Hospital lobby, Armstrong toured the facility and the nearby Emergency Department. When he took to the podium, he told the gathering of health professionals and visitors that “Baby-Friendly” means thinking beyond healthcare to larger issues outside hospital walls.

“This ‘Health in All Places Tour’ is a chance to highlight great things happening in health across our state,” said Armstrong. “We’re going to visit counties all along the coast to really drive home that message.”

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and Armstrong says babies who are fed breast milk for the first six months of life have opportunities that other babies won’t have; opportunities not marked by a wide range of acute and chronic diseases, such as ear infections, gastro-intestinal diseases and asthma.

“Babies who are breast-fed are less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS],” said Armstrong. And babies who are breast-fed for nine months stand a 30% less chance for being overweight.”

Breastfeeding also has benefits for mothers as well.

“Moms who breast feed their children are at a healthier weight on average than moms who do not,” said the Surgeon General. “They have a lower risk for Type-2 diabetes, as well as lower risks for breast and ovarian cancer.”

After the award of a certificate by Armstrong in honor of Sacred Heart’s recognition by the group Baby-Friendly USA, President Henry Stovall said the designation is only the beginning of a “new way of life.”

“That this was not an event; it’s the way we’re going to do business. And that’s our commitment long-term,” said Stovall.

Surgeon General John Armstrong’s other Panhandle stop Monday was Holley Navarre Middle School to recognize "Fuel Up to Play 60" -- a student run co-op between the National Football League and the Dairy Council, aimed a proper nutrition and exercise.

The “Health in All Places Tour” continued Tuesday, with visits to Fort Walton Beach Recreation Center, and Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach.