Thursday, March 31, 2016

AWHONN Convenes a Scientific Advisory Panel to Study Touch and Massage Therapy

Washington, D.C. – March 31, 2016 – The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is the proud recipient of a grant titled “The Power of Touch.” The funding supports AWHONN’s Power of Touch Scientific Advisory Panel, which convenes this month.  The panel will develop recommendations for nursing practice on holding a healthy term newborn skin-to-skin with a parent or caregiver; providing infant contact and touch; and/or infant massage. Later this year, the Panel will publish its clinical practice recommendations. This effort was made possible by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc.

Approximately four million women give birth each year in the United States. Based on the best evidence, nurses educate new parents on how to care for their infants.  Literature has demonstrated skin-to-skin contact, infant touch, and infant massage to be beneficial in certain preterm infants who are hospitalized. The Advisory Panel will evaluate available literature on full-term infants and make further recommendations.

Members of the Panel are:

  • Lisa Cleveland, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, IBCLC, will serve as a co-leader of the Panel.  She is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, School of Nursing and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) research consultant at the University Health System, also in San Antonio. With more than 20 year of experience in maternal-child nursing, Dr. Cleveland has an active program of research focused on substance use disorders in pregnancy and neonatal abstinence syndrome. She is currently leading an inter-professional research team to study the impact of kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) on attachment and stress reactivity in opioid-dependent mother-infant dyads.
  • Catherine Hill, MSN, FNP-BC, will serve as a co-leader of the Panel.  She is a nurse program development specialist at AWHONN and a practicing nurse practitioner currently working in the area of pediatrics. She has over 28 years of experience as a clinician, educator, and faculty member. Her current work with AWHONN involves development of educational products, evidence-based guidelines, and international speaking on evidence-based practices and newborn skin care.
  • Joyce Bragg RN, MSN, BSN, is the nursing director of the mother/baby unit and lactation at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD.  A nurse for more than 25 years, she has worked at the bedside in the areas of NICU, labor and delivery, and postpartum/women’s health. She has also served in various nursing leadership and management positions. She is currently overseeing efforts at her hospital towards the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, fostering relationships between physicians and nurses, productivity enhancement, cost reduction, and a number of other quality improvement initiatives.
  • Heather Condo DiCioccio, MSN, RNC-MNN, CKC, is an assistant nurse manager in the mother/baby unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Ohio. In that capacity, she provides high quality care, assists with staff education, and is initiating research on delayed bathing. She is works closely with the other departments to identify areas to increase breastfeeding exclusivity and is currently implementing kangaroo care throughout the postpartum in-patient stay in her unit. She is currently pursing a doctorate in nursing practice from Chamberlain College of Nursing.
  • Tiffany Field, PhD, is a professor in the department of pediatrics and psychiatry, as well the founder and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She earned a PhD in developmental psychology and for nearly 50 years has taught and researched various interventions for high-risk and vulnerable infants. She is the author of more than 400 journal papers and 38 books, including The Amazing Infant, several volumes on stress and coping, complementary and alternative therapies, yoga and touch. For her work, she has been recognized with a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Scientist Award and the Golden Goose Award award from the federal government for her research on helping preterm infants grow by massaging them.
  • Wendi Strauss Pulse, DNP, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, is affiliate faculty at Regis University in Denver, CO.  A nurse with more 25 years of obstetrical experience, she has worked at the bedside, as a clinical educator, administrator, and faculty member. Dr. Strauss Pulse has been involved in numerous grant-funded programs through the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence and the Colorado Hospital Association. She is the author of multiple book chapters and serves as a peer reviewer for the Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nurses (JOGNN).
  • Rosemary White-Traut, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the director of nursing research at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Additionally, she serves as professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Over her career, Dr. White-Traut’s research has been funded by the NIH.  In recognition of her research, Dr. White-Traut has received numerous awards including the Nurse Scientist Recognition Award from the NIH, the Distinguished Contribution to Research Award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society, the Jonas Salk Health Leadership Award for Research from the March of Dimes, and was designated as the 2010 University Scholar by the University of Illinois.   Since 1977, Dr. White-Traut has developed and tested multisensory and behavioral interventions for low and at risk infants.

“The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are vital to the health of newborns and their families,” said AWHONN’s CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “On behalf of AWHONN, we would like to thank Johnson & Johnson for helping bring awareness of these benefits by their support of this important work.”

“Human touch is a powerful tool for baby’s happy, healthy development,” said Tara Glasgow, Vice President, Baby Franchise R&D, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. “Together with AWHONN, we are committed to continuing to advance research in this area. Nurses are ideally positioned to guide new parents on this important topic and we look forward to the Advisory Panel’s recommendations.”

For media interviews, contact:
Kelly Mack for AWHONN


Since 1969, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women’s health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at