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Sinai neonatologist receives grant to optimize nutrition in NICUs

March 18, 2014

Mount Sinai's commitment to improving health outcomes for fragile, low birth weight hospitalized babies received an additional boost from the federal government today. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced $2 million in funding for nutritional research that will be pivotal in setting feeding guidelines for very low birth weight infants in Canada and globally. Eve Adams, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, visited Mount Sinai to make the announcement.

The investment will fund research by Mount Sinai neonatologist Dr. Sharon Unger, who is also the Medical Director of The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank and Dr. Deborah O’Connor, Senior Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Professor of Nutritional Sciences at University of Toronto. They will examine ways to optimize both donor breast milk and mother’s own milk with additional nutrients in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

by Riva Finkelstein last modified Mar 18, 2014 02:00 PM History
Eve Adams, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, visited Mount Sinai to $2 million in funding for nutritional research that will benefit extremely vulnerable babies and their families.
- See more at: http://www.mountsinai.on.ca/about_us/news/2014-news/photos/cihr-announcement-eve-adams/view#sthash.zDkvEhfq.dpuf

Eve Adams, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, visited Mount Sinai to announce $2 million in funding for nutritional research that will benefit extremely vulnerable babies and their families. L-R: Dr. Philip Sherman, Dr. Sharon Unger, Dr. Deborah O'Connor, Parliametrary Secretary Eve Adams, Mr. Joe Mapa and Dr. Ayelet Kuper with her twin babies Michal and Yair.

As part of the study, Drs. Unger and O'Conner are looking for ways to optimize breast milk donated through The Rogers Hixon Ontario Milk Bank - the only milk bank in the province.

In Canada, the leading cause of infant death and disability is preterm birth and ensuring that these fragile babies receive the best nutrition is critical for their healthy development. Research has shown that breast milk improves the health of preterm infants, however, some mothers of preterm babies are sometimes unable to provide the necessary volume of milk for their babies. When mother’s own milk is not available or is limited, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends pasteurized donor milk as an alternative. Fortifiers are often used both in donor milk and mother’s own milk to ensure the baby is receiving the best nutrition in those early weeks of life.

Mount Sinai has extensive expertise in the use of breast milk in NICUs, which is where the most fragile babies, often very pre-term and struggling to survive are treated. Dr. Unger’s and Dr. O’Connor’s initial research into the role of donor breast milk led to the opening of Ontario’s only milk bank – the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank, which collects, processes and distributes donor breast milk to NICUs across Ontario. Located at Mount Sinai Hospital, the initiative is a partnership between Mount Sinai, SickKids and Sunnybrook and is supported by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and a generous donation from the Rogers Foundation.

 “As a neonatologist I see the most fragile babies every day fighting to survive,” says Dr. Unger.  “We know that providing donor milk to these babies makes a real difference, but we need to learn more to get an even better understanding of how we can improve outcomes. The previous research funding in this area resulted in the opening of Ontario’s only human milk bank, and I know that this new investment will propel even better care to our tiniest patients.” 

With 7000 babies born a year at Mount Sinai, and 2/3 of Sinai’s pregnancies are considered to be high risk, the hospital is on a continuing pursuit to improve neonatal outcomes. With the leadership of Pediatrician-in-Chief Dr. Shoo Lee and an extraordinary team of neonatologists who are conducting research that will transform patient care, families can feel confident our tiniest and most fragile patients are in good hands.