ConclusionEvaluation of the Breastfeeding Helpline has been guided by a comprehensive framework developed to track the progress of the Breastfeeding Helpline and training initiatives of the ABA against intended outcomes. These outcomes align to the objectives of the Breastfeeding Helpline, which focus on accessible, quality advice and support for breastfeeding practice.
The preliminary evaluation has sought the views of the Department, the ABA and other key stakeholders in assessing the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Breastfeeding Helpline. Through the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative information, the operation of the Breastfeeding Helpline since October 2008 has been assessed including its administrative arrangements, utilisation, user satisfaction, quality of service and integration into service supports for breastfeeding mothers.
The Breastfeeding Helpline has made solid progress towards its objectives responding to a wide range of information and support needs from breastfeeding mothers and making referrals to other services to more widely meet the needs of callers.
The Breastfeeding Helpline service has benefitted from location within the ABA and the lead role the organisation plays within the community promoting and protecting breastfeeding practice. An evidence informed information and resource centre, a national network of volunteer counsellors and an extensive program of education and training underpin the role of the ABA and provide a dynamic environment for the Breastfeeding Helpline service.
There are a number of challenges for the Breastfeeding Helpline including the consistency of Breastfeeding Helpline support, sustaining and growing its volunteer workforce to meet demand, effective reach of the service into priority population groups, ensuring that its support role continues to be recognised alongside helpline advice services, remaining relevant to all mothers and contributing more widely to the consistency of breastfeeding information and support.
The following recommendations are made for further development of the Breastfeeding Helpline in line with the objectives of the service and based on the findings of the evaluation.
- A comprehensive strategy is developed to identify current and any further action required to staff the Breastfeeding Helpline to meet existing demand and potential growth in demand, and to address call waiting times and counsellor workload.
- A realistic assessment is undertaken of the extent to which the Breastfeeding Helpline in its current form offers an appropriate medium to meet the information and support needs of priority population groups3 , drawing from the evidence of good practice and emerging research in jurisdictions.
- Promotion of the Breastfeeding Helpline be reviewed to ensure that messages and materials are appropriately targeted to improve understanding of the Breastfeeding Helpline as relevant and accessible to all women as a source of peer support.
- A strategic set of performance indicators aligned to agreed Breastfeeding Helpline outcomes be selected to enhance current reporting arrangements. This would form the basis an annual report on Breastfeeding Helpline activity and insights about the needs of breastfeeding women, which would include a breakdown of information to jurisdictional level.
- The role of the Breastfeeding Helpline within the service system is reinforced by differentiating the Breastfeeding Helpline from other parenting and health helplines. This should be undertaken as a shared responsibility of governments and other service providers for meeting consumer needs and reducing service duplication. The Department could facilitate discussions with jurisdictions to consider memorandum of understanding type arrangements between the Breastfeeding Helpline and other helplines.
- The Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Officers Group investigate the opportunity for influencing greater consistency in breastfeeding training of health professionals and the role for the ABA.
The Breastfeeding Helpline has an important role in contributing to the outcomes of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy. The Breastfeeding Helpline’s community based service model emphasises the peer support and provision of a quality service that responds to the needs of every caller.
It is timely for the Breastfeeding Helpline’s role to be strengthened in the mix of professional, lay and peer support for breastfeeding practice and in the achievement of integrated services for better mother and child outcomes.
Priority population groups refers to subpopulations within the target group of breastfeeding mothers. These are identified as teenage mothers, mothers with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and mothers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.