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Kansas United Methodist Health Philanthropy in Action
2014 Annual Report

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Change HappensKim Moore
My life experiences have taught me that the status quo is never a real option. Over any reasonable period of time, the status quo is only an attractive false option competing with the magical past of our childhoods (or the even more potent golden days memories of our parents or grandparents). The real question for those desiring to deal with reality versus dreamland is whether we can direct or successfully encourage certain changes versus being pulled into new directions by externalities or intentional work of others with significant self-interest or ideological goals differing from our own.

The history of breastfeeding in America is an example of how change occurs whether we want it to happen or not. In the golden days of yore (great, great-grandparents), there was no option but breastfeeding. Substitute breastfeeding was possible with "wet nurses" for certain segments of our society but there was no dependable, healthy option if breastmilk was unavailable. Then came the development of replacement nutrients with the name "formula." In fact, successful marketing by formula manufacturers and the movement of women into the workplace (hastened by WWII) combined to create an attitudinal change which left breastfeeding as a behavior of persons with limited resources unable to provide the falsely-touted benefits of superior nutrition and ease of delivery offered by formula. Two or three generations of young women saw role models of formula feeding and believed this was best for their infants and probably easier than breastfeeding for their hectic lives as mothers.

These changes occurred on an unexamined basis for many mothers swept into the new cultural norm, and now we have to reverse engineer those norms if we are to secure the clear, proven benefits of breastfeeding over formula for more mothers and babies in Kansas. The status quo—with its grocery aisles of formula and supportive advertising, along with some generational standards which are not pro-breastfeeding—has to be changed if more Kansas infants and mothers are to start and continue breastfeeding as the standard practice once again. This process of change in behaviors and attitudes requires thorough-going alterations in the landscape of hospitals, physicians, nurses, grandmothers, mothers, fathers and businesses. New incentives, accessible sources of information, and new policies and practices must be widely adopted to create healthier lives overcoming the status quo.

This is work for health philanthropy and it is work which is advancing rapidly in Kansas. Thanks to the efforts of the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, the Business Case for Breastfeeding, local La Leche League volunteers, academic leaders, forward-thinking Kansas hospitals joining High 5 for Mom & Baby, family physicians and pediatricians and their associations, informed human resources directors in large and small businesses, safety-net clinics, health insurers—public and private, and other interested partners, the message of health associated with breastfeeding is re-taking Kansas one infant and one new mother at a time.

Our work in 2014 remained supporting change which will improve the health of Kansans. The exciting opportunities to improve the lives of Kansans through better initiation and duration rates of breastfeeding have drawn the Health Ministry Fund into many new relationships. From significant direct funding of key players, to our Impact Funding Team re-granting effort, to joining with the Kansas Health Foundation in developing a Kansas Health Summit on Breastfeeding, we invested in possibilities for significant change in Kansas breastfeeding behaviors. This focus and our other two strategic foci (young children's mental health and rural health system improvement) consumed our limited grant dollars and our personal attention in 2014. We look forward to additional advancements in these fields in 2015 and will keep you informed through our electronic annual report at www.healthfund.org as our commitment to positive change plays out.

In our philanthropic organization, we are convinced change is not evil but inevitable. We remain hopeful that strategic efforts to create positive changes are not a fool's errand but rather the best way to invest limited dollars to improve the health of Kansans.

Kim

Kim Moore,
President
March 2015
[read more reflections on our staff blog - To My Way of Thinking]

 

 

 

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