In 2021, we bore witness to an insurrection at the Capital, struggled with defining a new normal in the face of a pandemic still ravaging communities, and experienced (or swallowed) the pain and bitterness associated with ongoing inequities perpetuated by systemic and structural racism. Despite it all, the First Food field remained steady in its commitment to meeting the basic needs of infants and families.
We recognize that infant feeding is a shared human priority beyond partisanship or social crisis. And together, first with votes from our broader stakeholder community, then with rankings by the representatives of our member organizations, we identified the top five policy priorities for the First Food field.
We are proud to share that in 2021, we did many great things together, including achieving forward movement on all five of these policy priorities. We thank you for your continued support. Here is a detailed account reflecting ongoing USBC activities to advance these policy priorities.
Since 2012, Congress has allocated funds to the CDC Hospitals Promoting Breastfeeding program. Despite the name, CDC uses these funds to improve maternity care practices, increase access to peer & professional support, ensure continuity of breastfeeding care, increase support for breastfeeding employees, and address disparities in breastfeeding rates. Over 150 organizations joined USBC in calling for an increase for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). We bolstered our call for increased funding with more than 2,000 constituent messages sent with the USBC action tool. The FY22 federal budget is still under negotiation. We are hopeful that the $1 million increase recommended by the Senate will be included in the final budget.
The USBC also launched the 2020 State and Territory Breastfeeding Reports. Each report features data on breastfeeding rates, disparities, maternity care practices, and WIC performance measures and highlights state and community-based projects made possible through federal funding in 2020.
Access to lactation support and supplies remains a major challenge for young families during emergencies. USBC is working with Congressional champions and partners from the field to develop legislation that would ensure that lactation support and supplies are eligible for reimbursement under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Critical Needs Assistance program. Stay tuned for news and action in the coming months!
In addition, the COVID-19 Infant & Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCFE) Constellation, founded in 2020, has continued to foster information sharing this year. We anticipate that this Constellation will pivot to an IYCFE focus when the pandemic subsides.
Insurer coverage of lactation support and supplies is critical to building a landscape of support for babies and families. Unfortunately, coverage gaps leave too many families unable to access these essential services. Every five years, the Women's Preventive Services Initiative releases updated clinical recommendations on what services and supplies private insurance must cover without cost-sharing. The USBC mobilized the field to submit public comments to shape the clinical recommendations to create more equitable access. The Lactation Support Provider (LSP) Constellation closely examined the draft recommendations and submitted eleven detailed comments through the WPSI process.
The USBC also advocated for including the TRICARE Childbirth and Breastfeeding Support Demonstration Project in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The demonstration project will evaluate the cost, quality of care, and impact on maternal and fetal outcomes of using extramedical maternal health providers for military families. The USBC will monitor the project's implementation. The LSP Constellation will continue to advocate for an equitable approach that utilizes and reimburses the full spectrum of providers and their specific skills through a culturally-centered lens.
Research shows that access to paid family and medical leave makes a world of difference for lactating parents and their families. Still, only a small portion of workers in the United States have paid leave. The USBC stands with a coalition of organizations working to establish a national paid family and medical insurance leave program. In addition to a growing number of cosponsors on the FAMILY Act, the Build Back Better Act includes a provision for a national paid leave program. The lactation field brings an important perspective to the paid leave dialogue. In 2021, you sent over 7,000 messages to policymakers using the USBC action tool!
After returning to work, lactating employees must have access to break time and a safe space to pump during the workday. The USBC is incredibly proud to serve as part of the strategy team ushering the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act through the Congressional process. The PUMP Act is the first standalone breastfeeding bill to receive a recorded vote on the House floor. PUMP passed with strong bipartisan support in the House. A Senate version of the bill already advanced out of committee with unanimous bipartisan support. We are now waiting for PUMP to go to the Senate floor for a vote. More than 160 organizations signed on to support the PUMP Act. Individual advocates sent more than 13,000 messages to policymakers with the USBC action tool. We hope you're ready for another big PUMP Act advocacy push in early 2022!
Maternity care practices play an essential role in setting families up for infant feeding success. The USBC is part of a mighty coalition working to advance a legislative package known as the Black Maternal Health Momnibus. The Momnibus includes several bills endorsed and supported by the USBC, including the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, which was signed into law in December 2021!
Together, we made a big impact in 2021. We showed up when it was time to dig into the details of complicated policies because we knew what it could mean for babies and families. We elevated our concerns and solutions to policymakers. We showed up, even when it was difficult. And, all of it was possible thanks to your support.
We are buoyed by every action you take! Signing on to letters, using our advocacy tools to contact legislators, and urging others to act by posting on social media and talking to people in your networks are all necessary steps to advance the policy agenda we've defined together. We also need financial support to fund our advocacy efforts. Please consider making a donation to USBC. All contributions, from $5 to $5,000 or more, are valuable, worthy, and appreciated.
We are so grateful to have you with us on this journey.
|Amelia Psmythe Seger