Equity Keynote at HMBANA's 2019 Milk Banking Symposium

Member milk banks came to Chicago this month to participate in HMBANA’s 2019 symposium on milk banking. They attended a keynote session on equity and multiple sessions on milk processing, donor screening, communications and outreach, and more.

While 100 attendees were expected, attendance maxed out at 185, making for cozy quarters. This increased interaction across conference floors and in the hall, which featured 12 sponsoring exhibitors for the event.

The keynote session, “Leading for Equity: Making the Commitment and Doing the Work,” featured HealthConnect One’s executive director, Brenda Blasingame. Blasingame touched on three main components: the high impact of peer-to-peer support in perinatal health, the relationship between equity and identity, and how an equity lens relates to milk banking.

In 2016, HMBANA was awarded a major grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to increase the availability of donor milk within a clear equity framework. A main focus is outreach to hospital NICUs, health care professionals, and the general public to promote donor milk access so that it reaches the infants who need it most.

In applying an equity lens, Blasingame challenged the milk banking community to consider 11 key topics covered by the 2019 symposium that represent core operational areas and concerns. These were:

  1. Donor Screening
  2. Community Outreach
  3. Advocacy and Policy
  4. Communications
  5. Growing Leaders
  6. Hosting a Milk Drive
  7. Human Resources Policy
  8. Milk Bank Development
  9. Natural Disasters
  10. Recipient Experiences
  11. Hospital Policies

When considering total volume of pasteurized donor human milk distributed by nonprofit milk banks and total number of NICUs using donor milk, it's important to recognize that prematurity and infant mortality rates are higher in communities of color, whereas lactation rates are lower.

Member nonprofit milk banks play an important a role in promoting donor milk access locally, both through the creation of special assistance funds and advocacy to promote health insurance coverage. On the national level, HMBANA works with strategic partners such as HealthConnect One and the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee to strengthen our collective impact on these matters.