Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition: Catalyzing a Grassroots to Treetops Movement
Indiana has one of the strongest, most extensive networks of community breastfeeding coalitions in the country. The Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition (IBC) has grown because its leaders have assiduously created a culture of strong partnership with its network of local and cultural coalitions. Understanding the importance of keeping the dedicated coalition membership engaged and inspired, IBC has effectively coordinated and complemented strategic priorities with local coalitions. Breastfeeding advocates representing public health, health care, communities, academia, private and social sectors weave a vibrant network of coalition volunteers, dedicating their time and expertise to help improve the landscape of breastfeeding through education, advocacy, and collaborative action.
When Tina Cardarelli, Director of Breastfeeding Services at the Indiana Perinatal Network, stepped into the leadership of the coalition there was a shortage of lactation consultants in the state. Individuals were letting their certification lapse. Today, the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition is a model for state coalitions across the country. Tina shared some of the wisdom she has gathered during her many years with the coalition: coalitions benefit from activities which are timely, actionable, and tap into member expertise and interests. She often watches coalitions become bogged down with developing processes and organizational structure without continuing to building the passion and connectivity of the volunteers. As a result, she developed a peer system that connects a state coalition member with a local coalition liaison. This high-touch approach helps local coalitions stay connected with state priorities while implementing programs that are geared to the needs of local communities.
The commitment to personal interactions has led to a better working partnership with other important coalitions, including the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition, which is a beacon of light, empowering and encouraging African-American women to breastfeed. A leader of the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition, Ryan Karim serves as the Health Equity co-chair at the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition and is supporting IBC's equity and inclusiveness journey, by fostering increased representation of priority demographics in coalition leadership, membership, and programs. The partnership between the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition and the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition has played a key role in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding in communities across Indiana.
Another important way the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition provides backbone support to coalitions is through its webinar series emphasizing Community-focused and Clinical topics. This educational series addresses the great demand for professional training and development in the maternal and child health and lactation field. Clinical webinars usually provide free CERPs, which helps lactation support providers maintain certification. An average of 400 to 500 people across the country including the members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attend these webinars. The webinars have grown tremendously under the leadership of Chris Lundberg, Clinical Task Force Chair. Sign up for the next session titled, Community: Public Breastfeeding: Laws, Support, and Solutions on April 18, 1-2 p.m. ET.
Tina Cardarelli's visionary leadership and the success of the Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition have led to state and national recognition. She was recognized by the Indiana Commission for Women with the Torchbearer Award in 2016. Eight women received the Torchbearer Award, and out of the eight women, Ms. Cardarelli was selected for the highest additional honor by the Commission, the Keeper of Light, which is given to a woman who is an unsung heroine who has quietly and persistently worked to better her community.
Despite its distinguished track record of state-wide impact, the lack of financial support has hit the coalition hard. As a result of a loss of funding for coalition management and administration, Tina Cardarelli will soon be leaving the coalition. While she will continue to be involved as much as she can, veteran volunteer leader, Chris Lundberg, who serves as the Clinical Task Force Chair, Ryan Karim, the Health Equity Chair, and Lauren George, Community Task Force Chair will continue to lead the charge. The robust network built with passion and dedication over the last decade will continue to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding until it becomes the social and cultural norm throughout Indiana.
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