Meet the Researcher - Isa Ramos-Castillo

Breakout Room: 16

Isa_RamosResearcher Name: Isa Ramos-Castillo
Title of Research: Food Insecurity and the relationship between poor feeding practices and health disparities among infants
Division Representing: Health Sciences
Institution: University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Institution Location: North Carolina
Home State: North Carolina
District Number: 6
Advisor/Mentor: Jigna Dharod
Funding Source: Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award (URCA) at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; NIH-NICHD R15 grant

Research Experience:  
I currently work as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in an NIH-NICHD funded longitudinal research study examining how maternal food security affects infant feeding choices. I have taken the Human Subjects Protection training and I am involved in recruitment, data collection and data management. My research experience and translation science skill development has earned me the privilege of obtaining a competitive Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award and the Sadye Dunn Doxie Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research Award. In addition to research, I have experience working with the community. I am active in the community as a bilingual nutrition educator for Recipe for Success and I have developed lessons on USDA MyPlate and Food Label recommendations. I have also been active in UNC Greensboro's DI/DPD Mentorship program where I networked with current dietitians and dietetic interns. 

Presentation Experience: 
I have experience with scientific presentations. In September 2020, I submitted an abstract and presented a poster in the regional meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the poster was presented virtually with the oral description on study aims, methodology, results and conclusion. 

Significance of Research:       
Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants in meeting all the nutrients requirements, ensuring optimal growth and development. Hence, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life followed by continued breastfeeding along with solid foods until at least the first year. The study was conducted with low-income mothers to examine food insecurity and its association with breastfeeding and other infant feeding practices. Preliminary results indicated that initiation of breastfeeding was high, i.e., 90%. However, the majority (72%) of the mothers discontinued exclusive breastfeeding by 2 months of infant's age. Going back to work was a barrier for some mothers, but the most common reason cited was: not sure producing enough milk (low confidence). Multivariate analyses indicated that food insecurity was significantly associated with breastfeeding cessation even after controlling for sociodemographic variables such as parity, ethnicity and weight status. Specifically, food-insecure mothers were 1.5 times more likely to discontinue breastfeeding than their secure counterparts (p <.05). Experience of food insecurity during childhood was also seen among mothers and was associated with low breastfeeding self-efficacy. Results indicate that household food insecurity also affects infants negatively through poor feeding practices. In the future, pathways through which food insecurity affects discontinuation of breastfeeding is warranted. Especially, it is important to understand how stress and intermittent food shortage in food insecurity affect mothers in their ability to continue to breastfeed. Reducing barriers to breastfeeding, such as food insecurity, can help address health disparities in this country. 

Uniqueness of Research: 
This research study is adding to the breadth of literature regarding breastfeeding low-income mothers in Guilford County, NC.