SGCTA at Five Years: Brenda Bandy

 Brenda Bandy is a founding member and past president of the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, Inc. (KBC) where she currently serves as the Program Director. Brenda discussed the Cross-Sector Action Areas of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding during the August 18 town hall meeting. Below is a transcript of her responses:

What accomplishments from the five years since the SGCTA are you most excited about? Did these efforts target or affect disproportionately impacted populations, i.e., those with the greatest disparities in breastfeeding rates? If so, how?

When I first thought about this, I wrote down one word. That was “relationships,” how far we’ve come in this movement around breastfeeding in building relationships. And, I got out my copy of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, because this was literally our ticket for our state coalition into many conversations and many relationships. For the first time, it opened the door to these cross-sector relationships, people that didn’t really think that breastfeeding was something that they should even consider or think about. This opened the door for us.

Relationships is probably the part that I am most excited about, most specifically, relationships that on a state level, we’ve been able to cultivate with our state health department across bureaus, not just the likely suspect of WIC or MCH, but also reaching out to Health Promotions, the Child Care Licensing Bureau. We have been able to build relationships.

We built relationships with a couple of private health foundations, also. Since the Call to Action, here in Kansas, our two private health foundations hosted a summit using the Call to Action as a framework for that conversation.

To me, the most exciting part has been these relationships that have opened doors and builds on the idea that everyone has a role to play around breastfeeding. I’m equally excited about the work and the conversation that has been going around equity. That’s something that was new to me five years ago. I’ve been on quite a journey, and I feel like I’ve grasped some things and I’m still learning new things. But, I’m excited about the conversation around equity.

Considering the focus of the USBC and the field on advancing equity in breastfeeding support, what is missing from the SGCTA that you see as an important priority for the next five years?

I wrote down the word leadership, and this is not a new action area because I think it fits nicely under “Communities,” the sector calling on communities to serve a role. But, I don’t believe that we’ve specifically called out an implementation strategy that engages civic leaders, faith-based leaders. I think that often times they don’t see their place at the table when it comes to the First Food Movement. I would like to see some implementation strategies or even action areas addressed to civic leaders and leadership.

Also, building leadership within coalitions. That’s something that we’ve been thinking about here on the state level, building leaders in our local breastfeeding coalitions, which is, frankly, where the work gets done, on the local level. And, the USBC has been a great model for that, in terms of offering mentorship and leadership opportunities. It really has been a trickle-down effect. What we learn from the USBC, we try to bring home to Kansa and pass on to our growing local coalitions.

That’s another thing that I’m excited about, five years ago, we only had 10 local coalitions, and we now have over 25 covering over 60% of our state. That’s really the work is getting done, and it’s really where the work is getting done around racial equity, because these communities know the families in their communities and they know what their barriers are and are best equipped to deal with them. Really, I see our job as a state coalition, and even as the USBC, is to simply get the tools in the hands of the people in the communities and helping them to get the work done. So, I would say leadership is probably missing.

Looking at the whole (both existing action areas and any new ones suggested), which three implementation strategies do you think would have the greatest impact if prioritized over the next five years? How could these strategies best apply an equity approach?

I would go back to getting the tools in the hands of the people that can make the most difference. When I look through all the action areas, the one that I believe would have the greatest impact on where we want to go is actually the very last one. The very last one, if you dust off your copy, and that is increasing the capacity of the USBC and state coalitions, and I would add local breastfeeding coalitions, to support breastfeeding.

I think increasing the capacity of these organizations is what’s going to allow us to move forward. I really think that when you combine three things: passion, resources, which is often funding but not always, and autonomy, the freedom to get work down with lightweight governance, that gives us the most traction and we’re able to get the most work done. I think that lifting up that last implementation strategy is going to help us have the greatest impact.

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