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Pinay breastfeeding expert awarded Gates grant

/ 11:05 PM January 06, 2012

A leading breastfeeding non-government organization announced recently that its principal investigator has won a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, president of Children for Breastfeeding, said the organization’s principal investigator Nona D. Andaya-Castillo has just been awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) Research Grant. GCE, an initiative created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges.

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Esguerra added that GCE funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Andaya-Castillo’s project is one of the Round 7 Grand Challenges Explorations 110 grantees from 21 countries announced recently. To date, there are now 605 total grantees from 43 countries.

‘Nearly impossible feat’

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She described Castillo’s achievement as a “nearly impossible feat” since she lacked formal university training as a scientist.

Andaya-Castillo is the first and currently the only nonmedical doctor who passed the accreditation for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) in the Philippines. A profession recognized under the US National Commission on Certifying Agencies, an IBCLC is a breastfeeding specialist that is now a standard part of the healthcare team in all European hospitals and in other countries like Australia, Canada and the United States. However, only Andaya-Castillo and Dr. Henares-Esguerra, along with four other doctors, have passed this certification in the country thus far.

Andaya-Castillo is forming her team of scientists to design a research method that will investigate the effects of the World Health Organization dietary guidelines on the levels of naturally-occurring hormones responsible for lactation among breastfeeding mothers and the nutritional content of their breastmilk based on such diets.

“We will also analyze if the regular consumption of food (from animal farms, slaughterhouses, poultry houses) that are produced using synthetic hormones affects breastmilk production. These include milk and other dairy products, eggs and meat,” Andaya-Castillo added.

Andaya-Castillo has been advocating the use of indigenous food (purely plant-based) among family and friends since 1991. When she noticed the increasing number of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers afflicted with lifestyle diseases, she encouraged her patients and students in her prepared childbirth tutorials and classes to change their diets.

“Because of synthetic hormones, girls as young as 8 years old suffer from very early onset of menstruation. I have even come across 4 year olds. Normally, when women are not exposed to these hormones because they live in hinterlands, their menses start at the age of 14 to 18.”

WHO dietary guidelines

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The dietary guidelines of WHO are as follows:

Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and legumes, whole grains and nuts.

Limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and toward the elimination of trans-fatty acids.

Limit the intake of free sugars.

Limit salt (sodium) consumption from all sources.

A graduate of Broadcast Communications from the University of the Philippines, Andaya-Castillo worked as an information officer for several nongovernment organizations that advocate peasant issues, human rights and disaster risk reduction. She focused on health communication in 1995 and attended several international trainings on natural family planning (NFP) and breastfeeding support. At present she is pursuing advanced training as a childbirth educator from a US-based academy.

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TAGS: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, breastfeeding, Children, Children for Breastfeeding, Grand Challenges Explorations, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, World Health Organization
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