DC Breastfeeding Coalition: Leveraging Partnerships to Eliminate Health Inequities and Build Community Resiliency
The DC Breastfeeding Coalition (DCBFC) was founded in 2004, one year after the Office for Women's Health convened a Task Force as a Community Demonstration Project to assist with the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign. Over a decade later, the DC Breastfeeding Coalition is still thriving thanks to a culture of collaboration, a deep dive into understanding what funders require, and an intrinsic connection to the community. The DCBFC is composed largely of people in the field of lactation, healthcare, and academia. However, each person has a strong connection to the community, and their partnerships reflect and reinforce those connections.
Over the past 3-5 years, the coalition has focused on their Creating a Baby-Friendly District of Columbia Initiative. It opened the East of the River Lactation Support Center, a catalyst to the community, and partnering with the DC Public Schools and EDUCARE Head Start programs of Washington, DC to provide breastfeeding education.
"Key partnerships are the foundation of our success," says Mudiwah Kadeshe, DCBFC Vice President and board member of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). The DC Breastfeeding Coalition has multiple local and national partnerships, including non-profits, healthcare, government, and from the private sector. To name a few, Pacify, (a 24/7 video app using IBCLCs) the DC Department of Health, and WIC. Partnerships like the one with WIC, help the DCBFC stay connected to the city’s most vulnerable families. The Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition and the DCBFC work together to facilitate the annual Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace/Provider Awards which includes DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Determined to increase the number international board certified lactation consultants from underrepresented groups the DCBFC looked to national collaborators. Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, (R.O.S.E.) and author and lecturer, Linda Smith facilitated master training for lactation consultants of color from across the country. Now the coalition uses this skill to train individuals preparing to sit for the exam, minorities are given a discounted registration fee.
To remain relevant the coalition stays highly accessible to new partners and responsive to new inquiries. This level of accessibility ensures that the organization operates as an extension of the community it serves while connecting broadly. Those in leadership, like Mudiwah, a native Washingtonian, and Dr. Sahira Long, a previous DC resident, have built a community-based practice girded by their personal knowledge of the city. Along with their board members, they have successfully created a culture that nurtures individual and collective growth. This means a commitment to high standards and professional development in a welcoming environment.
Mudiwah, the Director of Programs and Grant Management at the DCBFC, never breezes over the importance of funding. Secure financial standing is an ongoing challenge many coalitions face, including the DCBFC. Funding makes the work happen, so early in her career, Mudiwah was driven to understand data management and the impact metrics funders want to see. Historically, the coalition secured and managed multiple grants well. In 2015 they were awarded Title V funding from the DC Department of Health. Like most non-profits, the DCBFC confronts the ongoing trial of securing funding for mission-driven efforts.
The DC Breastfeeding Coalition's biggest challenge is growing and engaging members as well as attracting a younger base. Implementation of a new strategy to address this challenge includes subsidizing the membership fee for novices in the field of lactation who are interested in being mentored by a board member while serving on a committee or task force.
In the future, the coalition plans to continue their focus on the Creating a Baby-Friendly District of Columbia Initiative. Mudiwah tells us that, "The strategies employed will align with the Healthy People 2020 goals and be accomplished through an equity lens. We will use the city's breastfeeding data to guide how we respond to the disparities."
In a webinar hosted by the United States Breastfeeding Committee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DNPAO section), Mudiwah discussed how DCBFC is leveraging partnerships for innovative, and culturally responsive strategies to expand and sustain the reach of the coalition and achieve community breastfeeding goals. Like previous coalitions spotlighted, DCBFC is committed to supporting other coalitions by sharing their journey and lessons learned, and encouraging the development of new ideas.
For the May spotlight, the USBC is honored to highlight the many ways the DC Breastfeeding Coalition has embedded principles of equity, inclusion and cultural responsiveness to improve community health.
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Center for Social Inclusion: "Removing Barriers to Breastfeeding: A Structural Race Analysis of First Food"
California Breastfeeding Coalition: Communities Matter: "Transforming the Local Landscape for Healthier Mothers and Babies