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!
Our last blog explained why we’ll have to work so hard to protect WIC from damaging cuts that could take years to restore. It will take a new kind of message to overcome ideologically driven opposition. That’s why CWA is launching Phase 3 of our WE NEED WIC public outreach campaign, and we need YOU to pull it off!
Over the summer, you can help us build a strong California WIC Business-Community Alliance (BCA). The BCA Campaign focuses on broadening WIC’s support base in California, engaging but moving beyond our traditional support within the nutrition and advocacy communities, with a special emphasis on the business community.
Potential WIC Business-Community Alliance partners will be asked to sign on to a general support Statement. A long and impressive WIC BCA Endorsement List will demonstrate to the public and to policy makers the breadth and depth of the support for WIC. Groups wishing to sign the Statement can do so through the CWA webpage portal or sign a paper version when asked to by a local WIC advocate. The California Grocers Association (CGA), American Academy of Pediatrics District 9, and many other organizations have already signed on.
The goal is to get at least 500 WIC BCA Partners signed on by September 2013. Our strongest emphasis will be placed on state and local companies and small businesses, as well as commercial trade and professional associations. We will also seek support from our traditional partners in the public health, faith-based, and advocacy communities. This public outreach effort is not a lobbying effort, but it will help demonstrate to the public and policy makers the depth of the links between the WIC program and California’s economy – from farmers to grocers to the medical community and employers looking to California’s next generation for healthy workers.
We will surpass our goal if each local agency collects just TEN WIC BCA endorsements! Planning ideas, outreach templates, talking points -- everything you need to get started is in our on-line Toolkit.
Are you in? Contact Donna for help at
For busy WIC practitioners, sometimes it may seem like there is a constant need to advocate for adequate WIC funding with policymakers. Why are there so many urgent Alerts and Calls to Action? Why are both NWA and CWA always reminding you to invite your member of Congress for a clinic visit?
Can’t we all take a break?? I wish we could!
Three realities require us to maintain our vigilance and activism in the foreseeable future. First, we all know WIC is a domestic discretionary program, 100% federally funded. Even in a good year, we must work hard to ensure that our annual Congressional appropriations allow us to serve all needy families and pursue program improvements like breastfeeding services and EBT.
Next, while all other major nutrition programs (SNAP, school meals) are exempt from mandatory budget sequestration that will be imposed on federal programs for the next nine years, WIC is not statutorily protected and is very vulnerable to across-the-board cuts.
Thirdly, a polarized and divisive atmosphere in Washington means that WIC may not continue to enjoy the bi-partisan support that has allowed it to survive largely unscathed for decades. Republicans control the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress and are heavily influenced by the “Tea Party” wing. There are a growing number of Republican House members (and some conservative Democrats) who do not feel the same affinity for WIC as their more moderate brethren, many of whom are now retiring. They are more ideologically driven, are looking to cut any and all federal programs, especially domestic discretionary programs.
In FY 2013, WIC was funded sufficiently only because an adequate appropriations baseline, combined with declining caseload and other factors, allowed us to serve all eligible participants without waiting lists. The fiscal year that begins this October 1 is another story entirely. President Obama’s FY 2014 WIC funding proposal of $7.142 billion should be fully adequate, but it’s far from certain to be the final number. There will be less money left in the carryover/contingency pots to buffer funding cuts. The House has already appropriated inadequate funds and essentially eliminated set-aside funds for breastfeeding peer counselors, EBT/MIS and research. Even if Senate appropriators do better, sequestration will again be in play, with extremely fierce competition over scarce domestic discretionary funding.
So, once again, we’ll have to work very hard to WIC from damaging cuts that could take years to restore. To make it fun, CWA will launch Phase Three of our WE NEED WIC Campaign - California's WIC Business-Community Alliance - this summer. Stay tuned for more next week!
WIC got a reprieve last month from damaging FY 2013 sequestration cuts required by the Budget Control Act. Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 replacing the expiring Continuing Resolution and funding WIC at a higher allocation of $7.056 billion through September 30, 2013. The higher CR appropriation for WIC raised the base upon which a 5% sequestration cut was imposed, with a further small amount subsequently shaved off by OMB to meet statutory caps. The final WIC funding level for the current fiscal year is $6.522 billion.
How could a total of $510 million in cuts be considered a reprieve for WIC? Because, even at this lower level, experts predict the appropriation will support full WIC participation. Contingency and carryover funds, declining caseloads (discussed in a previous blog), and tight fiscal management by state and local programs anticipating the worst, will allow the program to squeak through September.
Next fiscal year is another story entirely. President Obama’s FY 2014 WIC funding proposal of $7.142 billion should be fully adequate, but it’s far from certain to be the final number. The jobs picture is souring a little, and inflation will raise food and business costs. There will be less money left in the carryover/contingency pots to buffer funding cuts. Mandatory sequestration will again be in play, and the dynamics in Congress over how these cuts will be made will be much tougher, with fierce competition over scarce domestic discretionary funding.
In anticipation of the challenges of convincing Congress, particularly House appropriators, to continue supporting full funding for WIC, CWA is kicking off “Phase 3” of our WE NEED WIC organizing campaign designed to engage WIC’s key allies and business partners in communicating their support, by endorsing a simple statement that is posted on our website. By summer’s end, we would like to garner 500 endorsements by state and local groups, companies, and individuals, just in time to share them with Congress!
To meet our goal, we need your help! This will be easy because it’s all on-line. We’ll get you started at our Annual Conference Plenary, or you can use the WIC Employee Toolkit.
See you in San Jose!
Damaging across-the-board cuts will go into effect at midnight today, March 1, forcing WIC and a host of other federal programs to begin the process of curtailing services over the next few months, beginning as early as April.
Advocates hold out some hope that a balanced debt reduction deal preventing WIC cuts could still be made by March 27, the expiration date of the current Continuing Resolution and our next “fiscal cliff.”
What Will Happen to WIC?
Given the unprecedented nature of sequestration, it is not yet clear how WIC cuts will be handled by USDA and state WIC Agencies. The National WIC Association answers some questions about how the sequester could play out, and a recent Center on Budget & Policy analysis underscores how difficult and damaging it will be for WIC families, providers and the public’s health. A series of phone calls hosted by NWA provided further funding and timing details, and urged state and local directors “to refrain from any actions to limit access” or reduce caseloads through March 31, and to contact USDA regional staff before taking any action.
What Can I Do?
- CWA joins NWA in urging all WIC supporters to contact your member of Congress and urge him/her to protect WIC from these unconscionable and harmful funding cuts.
- Answer inquiries and requests for interviews and site visits from local print and electronic media, and educate them about WIC’s important role in improving nutrition, contributing to local economies, and the irreparable harm caused by cuts. In California alone, 100,300 moms and kids would lose benefits and over 1,000 WIC jobs are on the line.
- Urge your local business and community partners to sign on to the WE NEED WIC Statement posted on our website.
- It will take you less than five minutes to be a voice for WIC! Use your personal time and personal communications tools to urge Congress to fix this mess and reverse these harmful WIC cuts. Please do it today!