Coalition Spotlight: Influence, Inspiration, and Impact! Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington Shows the Way

March Spotlight

Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington

For more than twenty years, the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington (BCW) has been a steady and sustaining "backbone" support system for its network of local coalitions and community partners, coordinating efforts to improve the health of mothers and babies by vigorously advocating for and sustaining the implementation of best practices that support breastfeeding within hospitals, birthing facilities, health clinics, workplaces, and childcare facilities. These multi-sector initiatives have improved access and made a measurable impact on the state's breastfeeding rates.

Alex Sosa, the Breastfeeding Promotion Manager, has steered BCW through a phase of transformation. Under her able leadership, the past couple of years have been a time of growth and renewal for BCW, re-assessing the structure and function of the organization and adapting to the current and emerging landscape of breastfeeding. In 2015, BCW engaged with its network of eighteen local coalitions and community stakeholders in strategic planning retreats across the state. This deep engagement process led to updated vision, mission statements, and a framework for action embedded in principles of equity. This past year, BCW built on the foundational work and enhanced their technical support to local coalitions by providing training, workshops, and webinars, convening stakeholder events, and engaging community coalitions in capacity-building efforts. One of BCW's impacts can be seen through the progress in Yakima Valley. Last year, the BCW helped re-establish the Yakima Valley Breastfeeding Coalition after engaging community members about the best way to support breastfeeding in the area. BCW conducted a needs assessment and an engagement plan of existing coalition members and other community stakeholders to identify breastfeeding barriers in the community. The results of the assessment were shared during an 'open house' community engagement meeting. BCW and Yakima Valley Breastfeeding Coalition shared with community members what exactly a coalition is, and how coordinated efforts positively impact breastfeeding rates at the local level, and improve community health. Their engagement resulted in 25 people signing up to become part of the re-established Yakima Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. The Yakima Valley Breastfeeding Coalition held their first meeting on January 12, 2017. As a backbone organization, the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington plays a pivotal role in supporting local coalitions.

BCW hosted three webinars on topics of equity. Anyone interested in learning more about implicit bias or improving breastfeeding rates among underserved populations can access them for free. Communities are increasingly interested in improving breastfeeding support, and increasing breastfeeding rates among African American mothers have revitalized The Mahogony Moms Breastfeeding Coalition in the fall of 2016. A Kick-Off Open House Meeting is scheduled for April to involve the community in an action plan to develop strategies to support African American mothers and breastfeeding. Delores Baccus, the Executive Director of Mahogony Mom, who is also an active member of the Pierce and King County coalitions, credits the partnership with BCW as a key factor for improved outreach and engagement processes, and the resulting resurgence of Mahogony Moms. With the involvement of the larger community and the guidance of a Coordinating Committee, Mahogony Mom will co-create a comprehensive plan to improve breastfeeding support, protection and promotion in African American communities.

The Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington’s dedication to personal interaction and community contact makes it effective and indispensable. BCW has been tirelessly building community connections and done the research to ensure that what they are doing is filling a community need in a way that fits with the exciting norms of use. This means that when working to help develop local coalitions, the social and logistical realities of the community take center stage. This level of immersion at the local level requires building trust with the community and cultivating a reputation for consistently producing results through community engagement.

With it's dedicated emphasis on local coalition capacity building, BCW is guiding vision and strategy, building public will, and strengthening strategic partnerships for greater impact in the landscape of breastfeeding support, protection and promotion across the state of Washington. The USBC is honored to have such an outstanding coalition as part of our network.


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