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Ed. note: This was originally published on the Womenshealth.gov blog.
Yes, breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies. But breastfeeding has never really been just about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is about rethinking society's rules for infant feeding, overcoming cultural and environmental obstacles, and improving the workplace for breastfeeding women. On top of all this, there are different cultural ideas about breastfeeding for black women, including the historical trauma of wet nursing and the marketing of infant formula in our communities, and the issue gets even trickier. It is no wonder that there have been huge differences in breastfeeding rates between black women and white women for over 40 years.
These disparities are unacceptable.
Two years ago, I joined forces with two amazing breastfeeding advocates to name August 25—31 as Black Breastfeeding Week. Black Breastfeeding Week is a special weeklong awareness campaign to close out National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. It's designed to celebrate the power of breastfeeding in our community. As we see it, breastfeeding is more than giving our children immunity against some diseases and reduced risk of ear infections, respiratory infections, and type 2 diabetes. It is more than understanding that breastfeeding gives our children the best start at healthy eating habits for life. (Breastfed children are more likely to have varied and healthier eating preferences because breastmilk tastes different at each feeding. This means breastfed children are introduced to a variety of flavors each day.)
We see breastfeeding as an act of empowerment and self-determination. It's one of the many ways mothers can give their children the best possible start in life. It is time that we lift our children up — starting at birth — and over the many cultural and environmental barriers and forces that often prevent them from reaching their fullest potential.
With that in mind, the theme for this year's Black Breastfeeding Week is "Lift Every Baby," and our tagline is "Breastfeeding: So Strong. So Us." "Lift Every Baby" reminds us of all the ways that black families and communities lift up their youngest and most vulnerable members. From breastfeeding to early learning to quality schools to good nutrition, we're celebrating and sharing ideas on how we lift our babies — one child at a time.
On August 29th at 3 p.m. ET, there will be the first-ever nationally coordinated Lift Up events in cities across the United States. Black families will gather in predetermined locations to lift up their babies together as a visual display of community support of our children. Whether your "baby" is one or 15, if you can lift them up, you are encouraged to join a Lift Up event near you. I'll be there with my "baby" who is 11!
Throughout the week, we will have various social media events to spread the "Lift Every Baby" theme, including our signature annual twitter chat August 27th at 9 p.m. ET. This year's hashtag is #LiftEveryBaby. Get the full rundown of activities and the latest updates at BlackBreastfeedingWeek.org and the BBW Facebook page.
We invite black parents, aunties, uncles, and grandparents to join the conversation online and off to show our collective power to lift up every baby, every family, and every community. Breastfeeding is: So Strong. So Us.
Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author, and social commentator. She currently leads the First Food Friendly Community Initiative, an innovative pilot program funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation designed to create a national accreditation for communities who create more supportive environments for breastfeeding while promoting economic security for families. Her next book, The Big Let Down, a behind-the-scenes look at the battle for every infant's first meal, will be published in the spring. Learn more at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com and follow her at @iamKSealsAllers.
The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.
As the nation recognizes the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—one of the most devastating and expensive natural disasters in our history—individuals, families, and communities that were directly affected continue to recover.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters can lead to emotional distress in those who experience them. Survivors (including children and teens), loved ones of victims, and first responders are all at risk, and disaster anniversaries can re-trigger some of that emotional distress.
Overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms are common responses to disasters and traumatic events (before, during, and after the event), although reactions can vary from person to person. Most people who experience disasters are able to “bounce back” in a short period of time, but others may need additional support in order to cope and move forward on the path of recovery.
Anniversaries of disasters may also be hard for survivors, who may experience some of the same reactions they did around the time of the disaster itself. For those who experience intense reactions, preparing ahead of time and knowing what to expect may be helpful. Common reactions to disaster anniversaries include recurrent memories, dreams, thoughts, and emotions; grief and sadness; frustration, anger, and guilt; avoidance; remembrance; and reflection. To support themselves through anniversary reactions, survivors may want to talk about their reactions with others, take care of themselves by getting enough sleep and exercise and eating healthy food; develop and stick with routines; limit viewing of news related to the anniversary; use coping strategies that have worked for them in the past; and seek professional help with their reactions if they need it.
If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, please call SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746. A TTY line for people who are deaf or hearing impaired is available at 1-800-846-8517.
Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W. is the Director of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Twenty five years ago this week, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, making clear that people with disabilities should experience equal opportunity, independent living, economic self-sufficiency, and full participation in all aspects of our society. Over the past two and a half decades, our communities have become more accessible and more inclusive – in obvious ways, like curb cuts and accessible buildings, and in sometimes less recognized ways, such as the integration of people with disabilities in our schools, workplaces, businesses and neighborhoods.
At the heart of the ADA is the promise that people with disabilities are treated as equal citizens, afforded the same opportunities and rights as all Americans. But the 1990 law left out one critical civil rights protection – full access to health care coverage.
Fortunately, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans with disabilities no longer face exclusion from health insurance on the basis of medical history or pre-existing conditions, nor do they need to worry about hitting lifetime caps on benefits. As a result, many more people with disabilities are able to access quality health insurance that meets their needs, and they will no longer lose coverage when they need it most. While we have more work to do to address disparities and equal access, the ACA and the ADA have fundamentally changed the healthcare landscape for people with disabilities and the HHS Office for Civil Rights will be issuing a proposed rule to further explain non-discrimination under the ADA.
As well as improving access and quality of clinical health care, the Affordable Care Act also expanded home and community-based services for people with disabilities and older adults. Medicaid options such as Community First Choice, Balancing Incentives and Money Follows the Person are making a difference, bringing community living options to more people. HHS recently reported that for the first time, the majority of Medicaid long-term services and supports expenditures occurred in home and community-based services—as opposed to institutional care – based on 2013 data. This represents the third straight year in a row that we have seen growth in home and community-based services and a decrease in institutional spending.
Community living is the preferred option for the vast majority of Americans, and most of us take for granted the ability to choose where we live, with whom we live, when and what we eat, how we spend our days, or how we decorate our bedrooms. Yet for many people with disabilities, in particular people with significant support needs and those with complex medical needs, those basic choices have been out of reach.
This does not have to be an inevitable consequence of living with a disability. In this day and age, we know how to support people in integrated settings, to encourage community membership and reciprocal relationships, and to further employment in our mainstream workplaces.
Receiving services should expand opportunities, not create barriers. With the implementation of our home and community-based services regulations, many more Americans will receive services that support integration into the broader community instead of isolating them, consistent with the Olmstead decision under the ADA.
The Administration for Community Living and the Office for Civil Rights work together daily, along with other partners at HHS, to ensure that the promise of the ADA becomes reality. We all benefit when every American has the opportunity to fully participate in, and contribute to, our communities. As we pause to reflect on the silver anniversary of the ADA, there is much to celebrate, and still much to be done to ensure that all Americans, regardless of disability, can achieve equal opportunity.
Discrimination exacerbates health and health care disparities for communities of color. Inequity results in lack of access to quality, affordable care and
can lead to prolonged and unnecessary illness. This is especially true for people with a mental illness or substance use disorder. During July, National
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we shine a light on the discrimination that minorities often experience when living with a mental health condition,
and learn how we can prevent it.
Even as conversations about behavioral health become more common in our country, negative perceptions about mental illness and addiction continue to be a
major barrier to seeking care, especially in minority communities. In our travels, we hear many stories from individuals, families and communities across
the country that fear talking about mental health. As individuals, we are a greatly influenced by our cultural and spiritual beliefs and values. At times,
those cultural perceptions, some about mental health, may make it difficult to understand and talk about mental illness or addiction.
For others, the legacy of discrimination in health care services continues to linger, and can lead to distrust of health care professionals and behavioral
health service providers. And provider or institutional bias can impact the quality of care that is administered to patients. All of these factors often
lead to barriers that can keep individuals in need from seeking out and receiving the help and treatment that can lead them to recovery and promote health
We must continue to look for ways to improve the mental health care experience for all groups, including minority communities. We are making gains on this
front through the Affordable Care Act. About 1 in 4 uninsured adults have a mental or substance use disorder or
both. About 1 in 6 uninsured low-income adults has a serious mental illness. The Affordable Care Act, which included the largest expansion of behavioral
health coverage in a generation, builds on the Mental Health Parity Act to expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity
protections to more than 60 million Americans. In addition, the uninsured rate has declined across the board since 2013. As a result, more minorities now
have greater access to behavioral health benefits.
But there is still more work that needs to be done. Research has shown that the small numbers of minorities who do seek behavioral health care prefer
receiving that care in primary care settings, which means expanding this entry point into treatment is crucial. We must also ensure a health care and
behavioral health workforce that is responsive to and respectful of the cultural and linguistic needs of diverse communities. Our department’s HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
helps us achieve this by placing a priority on addressing behavioral health disparities.
Implementation of the
National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (National CLAS Standards)
—one of the key strategies of the HHS Disparities Action Plan—is an important step toward this goal. As a blueprint that helps health and health
care organizations improve the quality of services provided to diverse communities, the National CLAS Standards developed by the HHS Office of
Minority Health can help providers and delivery systems break down barriers created by bias and discrimination, while providing needed, quality care.
SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity is working across racial and ethnic minority communities to facilitate the availability of culturally and
linguistically appropriate services and the development of a more diverse and sensitive workforce of treatment and service providers. An example of such an
initiative is the
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Center for Excellence in Behavioral Health (HBCU-CFE)
which engages HBCUs in developing strategies to promote behavioral health workforce development and enhance behavioral health curricula for students.
SAMHSA also supports the Minority Fellowship Program, which is designed to increase the number of minority professionals in the behavioral health
Ultimately, an understanding of culture combined with a provision of health care services respectful of the beliefs, practices and needs of diverse
patients can help improve social inclusion and close the gap on disparities affecting persons experiencing mental or substance use disorders. We cannot do
this work alone. During National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we challenge you to take part in this important conversation and to start
conversations in your own community.
Stay connected throughout National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by following and using #MMHM2015. Share a photo, video or story with the hashtag
#MMHM2015 to let others know how you are getting involved.
about SAMHSA's Office of Behavioral Health Equity and read SAMHSA’s new Behavioral Health Equity Barometer to find out more about key behavioral health indicators among
Learn more about the HHS Office of Minority Health and resources on culturally and linguistically appropriate
services in health and health care at
This July 28th marks the 6th annual World Hepatitis Day (WHD), an opportunity to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and come together to share our successes and strategize about our challenges. Importantly, WHD provides a platform to mobilize greater support for our continued work toward better surveillance and prevention programs and improved access to diagnosis and treatment, through focused governmental and nongovernmental action. Globally, over 400 million people are living with viral hepatitis, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.4 million people around the world die each year as a result of viral hepatitis. WHO focuses attention on World Hepatitis Day as one of the 8 official global health campaigns mandated by WHO Member States. We are honored to join in this annual global observance.
In the U.S., the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis recognizes that chronic viral hepatitis is largely preventable and treatable. And in the case of hepatitis C, the infection is curable. Still, it’s estimated that between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans are living with untreated chronic viral hepatitis, which is a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013 there were over 21,000 deaths in the U.S. related to hepatitis A, B, and C. But we don’t have to accept these numbers. We can fight back. Using the Action Plan as a roadmap, federal and nonfederal stakeholders are taking steps to expand and strengthen programs, services, and research activities that will enhance our response to viral hepatitis. Raising awareness of viral hepatitis among the public at large as well as healthcare providers through events such as World Hepatitis Day is an important component of this enhanced response.
There are many ways to learn more about and get involved in efforts to address viral hepatitis.
View Live Webcast of U.S. Federal Observance of World Hepatitis Day
Tune into the Live Webcast on National Efforts to Address Viral Hepatitis
Tuesday July 28th, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM (EDT)
Working Together to Improve Viral Hepatitis Outcomes in the U.S. –
A World Hepatitis Day Observance
This event will be webcast at www.hhs.gov/live-2
Join us and learn about the efforts being undertaken across the nation to address hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The event will include:
Join the Global Viral Hepatitis Conversation
Each day, approximately 4,000 people will die from viral hepatitis, globally. Getting involved, raising awareness, and preventing new infections can help prevent future deaths. Below are some opportunities to learn more about viral hepatitis and join in this worldwide effort.