While WIC is a key hunger-fighting tool, WIC families need plenty of other supports if they are to climb out of poverty caused by a deep recession and growing inequality. While the outlook for SNAP (CalFresh) is still gloomy, there are signs of other, more hopeful policy changes that could truly benefit the families you talk to every day.
CWA supports, and urges you to support, these poverty-fighting proposals – they’ll help WIC families pay the rent, survive and thrive!
Covered California: Affordable health insurance, including expanded eligibility for Medi-Cal, is now available through our state exchange for millions of formerly ineligible households. To qualify for the January 2014 start date, urge everyone to apply by December 23, though applications will be taken through March 31, 2014. Go to www.coveredca.com or call (800) 300-1506.
Assembly Budget Proposal Talks Poverty! Speaker John Perez unveiled a FY 2014-15 budget “Blueprint” that, for the first time in recent memory, actually prioritizes child poverty reduction, calling on the Legislature “to address the intolerable situation where one-fourth of California children live in poverty, with life-long consequences.” Assembly Democrats want to use some of the projected surplus to restore damaging past cuts to health and welfare programs including CalWORKS, child care, Black Infant Health, and Medi-Cal.
Higher California minimum wage: The Governor signed a new law in September raising California’s minimum wage from $8 per hour to $9 by July 2014 and $10 by January 2016. Coupled with the existing federal Earned Income Tax Credit, this pay boost will make a concrete difference for working poor families in the near future.
Paid Family Leave: Today, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a paid family leave bill, including maternity/paternity leave, called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. Shouldn’t the USA join the rest of the civilized world regarding parental leave? Victory on this bold proposal will take years of hard work to achieve, but the benefits to breastfeeding and family life will be worth the effort!
Early Childhood Education: Child care advocates are working hard to push Congress to make good on a top – but yet unfunded - Obama priority: universal preschool. WIC champion Rep. George Miller (D-Concord) is one of the co-authors of a new preschool bill that would implement this long-held dream. A steep price tag will make this a long-haul, but let’s get it done!
American hospitals have been steadily trending toward ending formula promotion over the past decade. Public Citizen’s new report, Top Hospitals’ Formula for Success: No Marketing of Infant Formula, shows how the vast majority of the nation’s most reputable hospitals—including 7 in California—are acting ethically and thwarting pressure from formula companies to aggressively market to their patients, which can undermine breastfeeding.
- 67% of top-ranked maternity hospitals reported not distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags, formula samples or other formula promotional materials to mothers in their maternity units. Another 11% reported limiting formula bag and sample distribution to mothers who request them.
- A substantial majority (82%) of U.S. News and World Report’s Honor Roll of the country’s best hospitals reported having a policy or practice against distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.
These new findings underline what we already know: hospital breastfeeding policy is finally trending in the right direction! The CDC Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) Survey shows that, by 2011, almost 46% of hospitals had discontinued formula discharge bags – way up from 27% in 2007. All hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voluntarily banned discharge bags, while others, including Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma and New York, are progressively moving in that direction. The number of Baby-Friendly hospitals continues to increase every month, and California is leading the pack with 59 and dozens more in the pipeline.
More than 16,500 people have signed Public Citizen’s petition calling on the three major formula companies—Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nestle—to stop marketing in healthcare facilities. ACTION: Sign the petition and forward it to friends before Public Citizen advocates deliver it to these companies next month!
At the eleventh hour, Congress finally came together to re-open the government, thus averting any further damage to our economy and allowing WIC to keep the doors open without disruption or harm to the families we serve. What a relief!
Thanks to all who helped us send a strong message to end the shutdown. While cynical and unsupportable from a policy perspective, it was politically important to see House Republicans try to pass a bill restoring WIC funds. If nothing else, that somewhat desperate action showed that your voices were loud, clear, and most definitely heard!
We can now “turn down the heat” that we have been sending daily, in the form of real WIC stories and voices, to members of the California Congressional Delegation. But it’s too early to turn the stove off. The Continuing Resolution passed on October 16 only keeps the government funded until January 15, and raises the debt limit until February 7. This means WIC funding level of $6.5 billion is now available retroactive to October 1 but only through mid-January, leaving more uncertainly for WIC providers and participants.
Congress is supposed to come up with a negotiated budget plan by December 13. Maybe they will re-think the draconian sequester cuts that loom in January. Maybe they will work out a “grand bargain” on larger tax and entitlement issues. But don’t hold your breath!
Because of continued uncertainty, CWA will continue to urge Congress to protect WIC and other critical health and safety net programs and avoid repeating the extremely damaging brinksmanship we’ve witnessed in recent weeks. In other words, we still need “WE NEED WIC!” The campaign will continue into 2014; we won’t stop until WIC stands on the solid ground it deserves.
ACTION: Keep your advocacy simmering! Reassure WIC families and grocers, continue providing quality services, and get some rest over the holidays. We may need you again!
The government shutdown has generated heavy media coverage of WIC’s precarious situation. Like most other, states, California WIC has only enough unspent federal funds left to allow normal operation for about a month. This is an unprecedented challenge for WIC provider/advocates, who need to avoid panic, focus on service -- and get active!
CWA is sharing three key messages with the public:
- WIC is still open for business for the time being.
- Terminating services to WIC families is unconscionable and dangerous to the public’s health.
- Congress needs to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution to end the government shutdown and allow WIC to continue to operate.
While those of you on the frontline concentrate on keeping the doors open for WIC families, CWA will activate a rapid response to this crisis, using both traditional and social media outlets. We’re ready to roll with WE NEED WIC – Action Time!
Thanks your amazing grassroots efforts as part of the WE NEED WIC Campaign, we have plenty of reserve “fuel” that we can quickly use to “turn up the heat” on key members of the House to fix this mess and pass a simple Continuing Resolution funding WIC for the rest of FY 2014. Over 500 businesses and organizations have endorsed full funding for WIC. Thousands of participants have signed paper plates describing how important WIC is to them, and we still have lots in storage! And we have dozens of heartfelt video testimonials from individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by WIC.
If Congress fails to pass a CR by the third week in October, we may have to consider more direct action and ask for wider local involvement. Please stay tuned!
It’s easy for a busy WIC counselor to fall into the trap of thinking that breastfeeding, a complex personal decision and intimate behavior unique to every new mother, has very little to do with the wider world of politics and health policy. But like any other human behavior, breastfeeding is shaped by family and social norms, environmental cues, and institutional policies. In fact, addressing California’s breastfeeding inequities is an issue of not just policy, but social justice!
That’s why CWA is advocating so hard to reform breastfeeding policies in California. We began with hospitals, where a mother’s decision to breastfeed can be fully supported …or subtly undermined by lack of clear policies, poor protocols, or cultural assumptions. Since 2006, CWA and the UC Davis Human Lactation Center have released hospital breastfeeding rate reports, with the latest released in August 2013: Policies, Promises, and Practice, with updated state and county fact sheets. Once again, the data clearly show that the exclusive breastfeeding “gap” is greatest in hospitals serving low-income mothers and babies – i.e., WIC participants.
At the same time, our sponsored bill, SB 402 (De León/Pavley) passed the Legislature on August 30, and is now awaiting signature by Governor Jerry Brown by October 12. SB 402 will require all California perinatal hospitals to implement “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” per the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, or an alternate process adopted by a health care service plan that includes evidenced-based policies and practices and targeted outcomes, by January 1, 2025. The bill has virtually no opposition and is supported by a large and diverse group of supporters, including major organizations such as the California Hospital Association, Kaiser Permanente, the California Nurses Association and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.
Momentum is definitely building to finally fix the hospital piece of the breastfeeding policy puzzle! Next up: the important role of perinatal healthcare providers, especially given the opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act.
Find out if your local hospital is Baby-Friendly, and if your community’s health clinic supports breastfeeding moms. If they aren’t, start advocating! By protecting the health of mothers and babies while reducing health care costs, breastfeeding benefits us all!