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Advocacy: Lamaze International Leaders on Capitol Hill

April 7th, 2015 by avatar

By John Richardson, Director, Government Relations, Lamaze International

I am proud of being both a member of Lamaze International and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator for many reasons.  Today’s post by John Richardson, Lamaze International’s Director of Government Relations is just one reason why I am happy to pay my membership dues and be a part of the Lamaze organization.  Lamaze is actively working in both the private sector and with public/governmental leaders to help every family to have access to the resources to have a safe and healthy birth.  Today on the blog, we share about how our Board of Directors met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to share the importance of an evidence based childbirth education class being available to all families.  My certifying organization works hard for me and the families I teach every day.  – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

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Lamaze BoD on Capitol Hill, 2015

Advocacy is a foundational element of the Lamaze International mission to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy. Assisting women and their families to make informed decisions for childbearing and acting as an advocate to promote, support, and protect safe and healthy birth are two core competencies of a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator.

Advocacy comes in many different forms. The new Lamaze Strategic Framework specifically calls for taking advocacy efforts to the next level, focusing on government and legislative advocacy — leveraging strategic partnerships to advocate for perinatal/childbirth education coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and partnering with insurance companies, including the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), to become part of the “bundled care” system. (Bundled care payment programs refer to the concept of grouping together the multiple services associated with a certain health “episode” versus the current fee for service system where each service associated with a condition is charged separately, and is one of the ACA’s many attempts to incentivize health care providers to be more cost efficient.)

BoD President Robin Elise Weiss and BOD Christine Morton

BoD President Robin Elise Weiss and BOD Christine Morton

Over the years, Lamaze has been involved in a variety of coalition and advocacy efforts related to improving access to high-quality maternity care that includes evidence based childbirth education by qualified educators and the promotion of breastfeeding within the health care industry. These efforts will continue with Lamaze taking its message directly to Capitol Hill to have a stronger voice with federal policymakers on behalf of the organization, its members, and the women and families that Lamaze serves. We want to let Congress know that Lamaze International provides gold standard childbirth education which can play an important role in promoting healthier outcomes for mother and baby and reducing healthcare costs and burdens on the healthcare system.

What does advocacy look like?

Advocacy campaigns at the federal level in the United States are typically a set of actions targeted to create support for a specific policy or proposal. The goals of an advocacy campaign may include drafting and passing a new law, drafting and passing amendments to existing laws, commenting on regulation, or influencing public perception and awareness of a particular issue.

Why is advocacy important for Lamaze?

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Board member Alice Turner

The delivery of health care is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. State and federal regulations often define whether services are covered by insurance, which practitioners are allowed to deliver services, the manner in which services are delivered, and how much individual practitioners and health care organizations are reimbursed. Naturally, there are a lot of people and organizations invested in steering and influencing these policies. There are literally thousands of issues and groups vying for policymakers’ attention. For Lamaze, it is critical to engage directly in advocacy activities so that policymakers become aware of the issues that are important to our organization and make them priorities.

There have been several recent successful advocacy initiatives to improve care for pregnant and postpartum women. For example, Lamaze has worked in collaboration with other organizations and lawmakers to improve breastfeeding services under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, there are several benefits now available to women who receive coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (exchanges) and private non-grandfathered plans. Benefits such as lactation support and counseling by trained professionals are now covered without co-pay or co-insurance. Breast pumps are also covered at no charge and most employers must provide access to clean and private locations to pump for women who are hourly employees.

These victories are impressive and it is important to note that they did not occur in a vacuum. Advocates flooded the halls of Congress for years to ensure that policymakers appreciated the importance of breastfeeding. A key component of the success of these advocacy efforts was that they were based on research, focused on higher quality health outcomes, and provided fiscal benefits to the health care system and the federal government.

The Lamaze Board of Directors’ “Hill Day”

cbe graphicBearing all this in mind and in conjunction with their in-person meeting in Washington, DC, members of the Lamaze Board of Directors took to Capitol Hill on March 19, 2015 to meet with their Representatives and Senators about the excellent childbirth education that Lamaze provides and its potential to reduce costs and improve outcomes. The members of the Board met with a total of 23 Congressional offices, the majority of whom sit on committees with jurisdiction over health policy.

Our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill centered on the following core messages:

  1. Promoting greater utilization of evidence-based childbirth education is a critical element in closing quality outcomes gaps and reducing unnecessary costs. In the face of high rates of cesarean sections, early inductions, and maternal/infant mortality, there is an increasing imperative for women to be informed and in charge of their maternity care to improve birth outcomes.

Maternal or neonatal hospital stays make up the greatest proportion of hospitalizations among infants, younger adults and patients covered by private insurance and Medicaid, which is why improvements in care are a major opportunity to reduce overall healthcare spending. Increasing quality outcomes by reducing the rates of unnecessary interventions, such as early induction of labor and cesarean section, are critical to reduce healthcare spending, particularly with Medicaid.

  1. The ACA has provided an opportunity for millions of uninsured Americans to access health care coverage through the creation of the exchanges. For those that do not enroll in a plan during the “open” enrollment period, there are qualifying “life events” that trigger special enrollment periods. One of those life events is when a woman gives birth. After the birth, the mother can sign herself and her infant up for coverage.

Lamaze believes, along with many others, that pregnancy, rather than birth, should be the life event that triggers the special enrollment period. Recently, 37 Senators and 55 Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell  requesting this change. It appears Secretary Burwell can make this change administratively, as it does not require an act of Congress. Lamaze will join a chorus of other organizations that are making this request directly to the Secretary. Lamaze will also emphasize the importance of ensuring that ACA and state Medicaid plans include childbirth education as a covered service under maternity care benefits.

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Hill Day meetings

While meeting and communicating with legislators and staff on Capitol Hill may seem intimidating, it is actually very easy. Legislators are elected (and re-elected) by their constituents (you) so they have an obligation to listen to their constituents (you). That is a very important dynamic to remember. They are naturally inclined to help address the issues raised by their constituents.

However, advocates should always be well-prepared, a task that proved to be almost second nature for the Lamaze Board members as they met with Congressional offices. As experts in the field and natural educators, Lamaze leadership did a fantastic job representing the views of childbirth educators and establishing a rapport with the officials and staffers they met – the most important accomplishment of any first meeting on Capitol Hill.

Check out all the pictures of our Board of Directors on the “Hill” last month here.

Getting Involved

If you want to get involved and contact or meet with Congressional offices in your state, the most important action is to convey who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why it is important. Then, continue a dialogue of how specific policies might be improved for safer, higher quality, lower cost birth outcomes. In preparation for the first Lamaze “Hill Day,” several key documents were developed, including a policy paper and supporting documents to convey Lamaze’s core message in meetings with Congressional offices. By following this link, you can access and use these documents for advocacy efforts with your state’s representatives and in your local communities with insurers, health care providers, and hospitals.

Providing Lamaze’s unique perspective on the state and national level is extremely important and we can only be successful with the help of our members and supporters. In the coming months, we will provide a webinar on how to become an effective advocate and what Lamaze is doing to have an impact on access to high-quality childbirth education. Stay tuned!  If you are already an advocate in your community, on the county or state level or even nationally, share what you are doing to help families receive good care and improve outcomes in our comments section.

About John Richardson

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© John Richardson

John Richardson joined SmithBucklin, Lamaze International’s management company, in 2001 as Director of Government Relations, Healthcare Practice Group. He guides the policy efforts of healthcare organizations whose members include healthcare administrators; allied health professionals; physicians and hospitals. His experience provides his clients with a deep understanding of policy and politics and their effects on the healthcare system.

John lobbies Congress and government agencies at the federal level and also develops strategy for state lobbying efforts. He also has experience pursuing client objectives such as the development of practice guidelines, CPT codes, evidence based research, and technologies that promote efficiencies within healthcare administration.

Prior to joining SmithBucklin, John served as an Associate to the House Committee on Appropriations for a former member of the committee. Preceding his work of 5 years on the Hill, John acquired extensive political and grassroots experience working as a campaign aide to congressional and presidential campaigns.

A New Hampshire native, he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I, and currently resides in Bowie, MD with his wife Kristin and sons Garrett and Holden.

 

Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Healthcare Reform, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Lamaze News, Maternal Quality Improvement, Push for Your Baby, Research for Advocacy , , , , , ,

New Webinar for Birth Pros: “Making It Work! – Breastfeeding Tips for the Working Mom”

March 24th, 2015 by avatar
breastfeeding working mother

flickr.com/photos/jennysbradford/4356862824

I often share in childbirth classes that breastfeeding can be the next big challenge after birth.  As a childbirth educator, I weave breastfeeding information throughout my class series. By the time the “breastfeeding” part of the class happens towards the end of the series, the families are eager and ready to learn how to be as prepared as possible to feed their baby, without actually having baby there yet to “practice” with.

I provide additional follow up resources for the families as well, including where to get help locally with breastfeeding issues, what current best practice says on a variety of breastfeeding topics and useful videos like effective hand expression.  Returning to work and breastfeeding is one topic that I feel is important to cover, but often gets short shrift due to lack of time. Families don’t even have their babies in their arms yet, and the “return to work” point still seems very far off, and I have a lot of information to share in a short class time. In some areas, there are specific classes that families can attend that specialize in the “breastfeeding for the working parent” topic, but not many families can locate or take advantage of this type of class.

I would love to be able to support my families long after their childbirth education class is over with information they can use and apply for the working/breastfeeding parent, and that is why I am planning on attending Lamaze International’s free (non-Lamaze members $20) 60 minute webinar “Making It Work! Breastfeeding Tips for the Working Mom” offered on March 26th at 1:00 PM EST.

It is well documented that exclusive breastfeeding rates drop significantly when women return to work or school.  There are many barriers to overcome and prenatal information and support can help families to prepare for the time when babies are being cared for by others and still being breastfed.  This online webinar is appropriate for doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, nursing staff, physicians and midwives.

The webinar is being presented by Patty Nilsen, RN, BSN, BA, IBCLC, ANLC.  Patty is an Outpatient Lactation Consultant for Mount Carmel East, West & St. Ann’s Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio, where she provides daily private outpatient lactation consultation for women experiencing challenges and in need of encouragement with breastfeeding, leads weekly breastfeeding support groups, and answers over 300 breastfeeding helpline calls per month.  Patty has learned many innovative tips for returning to work and breastfeeding from the thousands of mothers she has worked with over the years and is eager to share them in this webinar.

© womenshealth.gov

© womenshealth.gov

The webinar is open to all, and Lamaze International members are able to attend at no cost.  Non-members will pay $20 at registration to participate.  Additionally, this workshop has been approved for continuing nursing education hours which  are accepted by DONA, Lamaze, ICEA and other birth professional organizations. The cost for receiving continuing education hours for Lamaze members is $35 and for non-members is $55, (which includes the cost of the webinar). As mentioned above, Lamaze members attend for free, if they are not enrolled for the contact hours.  Contact hours are awarded after completing the webinar and a post-webinar evaluation. CERPS are pending.

You can register for the webinar (select contact hours or no-contact hours) at this link – and then prepare to join on Thursday at 1:oo PM EST.  After the webinar, come back and share your top takeaways and how you are going to use this information to support families in your area with other Science & Sensibility readers.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International, Webinars , , , , , , ,

Thanks IBCLCs – For Helping New Families Meet Their Breastfeeding Goals

March 5th, 2015 by avatar

IBCLCDayLogo 2015(2)Yesterday was IBCLC Day – a special day set aside once a year to recognize the hard work and efforts that International Board Certified Lactation Consultants provide all all year long in support of breastfeeding for mothers, babies and really, the entire family.  IBCLC Day is sponsored by the International Lactation Consultant Association, a professional organization for IBCLCs around the world.

Becoming an IBCLC is no easy feat; the requirements to become credentialed are very rigorous and involve many clinical hours and an exhaustive exam.  Continuing education hours and/or retaking the exam are required every 5 years to maintain the credentials.  There are over 27,450 IBCLCs worldwide.

Some IBCLCs are also Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators.  Both organizations represent the gold standard in their field and it is not surprising that some professionals seek out both qualifications.  When an LCCE is also an IBCLC, their class families can really benefit.  The LCCE is able to weave in a rich knowledge of breastfeeding topics and information throughout the class, as well as share information about common challenges that they see when working as an IBCLC.

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by robysaltori: http://flickr.com/photos/robysaltori/4604876371

CC flickr photo by robysaltori: http://flickr.com/photos/robysaltori/4604876371

A lactation consultant can use their childbirth education skills to hone their communication and help families understand the nuances of feeding their babies when they are delivering breastfeeding information during a consultation.  The two professions can complement each other beautifully.

Of course, the scope of practice of LCCEs and IBCLCs is different, and it is important to recognize the separation and to wear the proper hat when conducting yourself professionally in either capacity.

For official information on how to become an IBCLC, check out the information on the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE ) site. If you are considering becoming an IBCLC, there is an Facebook Group just for you, where you can discuss the different pathways, find out more about the requirements and costs, and receive the support of other men and women exploring the IBCLC process and preparing for the exam.

I reached out to some Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators, who are also IBCLCs, to ask some questions and learn more about experience of wearing both hats.  Teri Shilling, Ann Grauer and Ashley Benz generously shared their thoughts below.

Sharon Muza:  Which credential did you receive first, your IBCLC or your LCCE?

Teri Shilling: I received my LCCE first.

Ann Grauer: I was an LCCE first. I never thought I’d be an IBCLC but one year the policies fit me and I decided to go for it.

Ashley Benz: I became an LCCE first and then an IBCLC. My goal had always been to become a lactation consultant. I knew that it was a long road and I was so interested in getting started working with families that I did a couple of certifications before I was ready to take my IBCLC exam.

SM: How does having both credentials benefit your students and clients?

Teri: So much of my work as an IBCLC is education – by the bedside, on the phone, etc.  Keeping things simple and memorable is key.  The certifications speaks to my professionalism and commitment to continuing education

Ann: I had a CLC before my IBCLC—I’ve always felt that I wanted and needed more information on breastfeeding. I’ve taught breastfeeding classes since the beginning but the information explosion in that one topic is incredible!  I feel very strongly that it serves my childbirth classes well that I have that credential and that being an LCCE serves my breastfeeding clients. I see things from a “facilitator of education” standpoint, rather than a traditional IBCLC standpoint.

Ashley: Because a lot of what a lactation consultant does is teach, I use the skills I’ve gained from teaching Lamaze class in breastfeeding consultations. In Lamaze class, I use my knowledge about breastfeeding and mother-infant bonding.

SM: Does your IBCLC knowledge influence how and what you teach about breastfeeding? 

Teri: Yes, I think it does, but I have been an IBCLC for 20+ years and can’t remember what I taught before.  But being an IBCLC gives me first had experience with the big bumps in the road many women hit during the postpartum time.

Ann: Yes. I’ve actually simplified what I teach. Being an IBCLC, means I now appreciate that parents need simple and honest information that they can incorporate into their parenting.

Ashley: I probably emphasize the need to seek proper help more than other educators. My class focuses on the basics of breastfeeding and assumes I’ve convinced my students to get support for issues that arise.

SM: What would you recommend for other LCCEs who might want to be an IBCLC? What are the challenges?

Teri: Do a community search for where the gaps are in support – is there a breastfeeding coalition in your area? It is important to network.  Find a mentor.  I would say go for it.  More education never hurts.  The challenge is being employed as an IBCLC as a non-nurse.  It helps if you are the entrepreneur type and able to set up a private practice.

Ann: If you’re a non-RN you will have to work incredibly hard. The system is set up to be medically-minded and there is not appreciation/understanding of what non-RNs bring to the table. Which, by the way, is a lot. Rather than focusing on becoming an IBCLC, allow yourself to enjoy the journey of learning and you’ll be there before you know it.

Ashley: The major challenge of the IBCLC path is that it can be very time (and often financially) intensive. I recommend checking out the IBLCE website and see if there is a pathway that you already fit into. If not, make a five-year plan to become an IBCLC.

SM: Where do you think it gets tricky wearing both hats?

Teri: I don’t think it does.  I love being able to be part of the continuum from pregnancy to postpartum.

Ann: I don’t think it does. My confidence is in the mother and baby. I’m just here to help in any role I can.

Ashley: Whenever you have multiple sets of skills, it can be difficult to maintain appropriate business boundaries and communicate those to your students and clients.

Careers as both a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant are fun, challenging and very rewarding.  They are a wonderful compliment to each other and families can benefit from the knowledge that someone who holds both credentials can share when serving in either role.  Are you an LCCE who has considered or would like to become an IBCLC?  Are you already on that path?  Share a bit about your journey in our comments section and let us know.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Newborns , , , , , , , , ,

Online Course- “Labor Pain Management: Techniques for Comfort & Coping” Goes Live

February 24th, 2015 by avatar

online course adLamaze International is very pleased to announce the release of their fourth and newest online Lamaze childbirth education course for expectant families.  This newest offering, “Labor Pain Management: Techniques for Comfort and Coping” provides families with coping skills for all the stages and phases of labor, from early labor right through pushing and birth.  All of the Lamaze International online courses are interactive, filled with great photographs and graphics, and based on the most current evidence.  You can read more about the previous courses that were released in this post from November, 2014.  Our first online course: Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps was released in early 2014 when Lamaze unveiled the Online Parent Learning Center.

Lamaze International expanding into online childbirth education

The Lamaze International Strategic Framework 2014-2017 that resulted from in-depth strategic planning meetings held in 2014 with the Board of Directors and Lamaze management resulted in many forward thinking, comprehensive and courageous goals, including plans to “innovate education and expand to the childbearing years” by:

  • reaching more women earlier and more frequently throughout childbearing years,
  • expanding delivery methods for online education (e.g., virtual classes, Facetime consults, and mobile apps), and
  • developing a strategy to broaden outreach at the electronic level and cultivate moms ‘up’ the ladder for more personalized services and training.

Labor Pain Management: Techniques for Comfort and Coping

The course description lets families know that “labor and birth require a lot of physical and mental preparation. As you get ready for your upcoming birth, you will want to have a variety of comfort measures and coping techniques in your labor toolbox so that you and your support team can be as prepared as possible. Learning helpful labor positions and strategies to promote labor progress will allow your body to work with your baby toward a safe and healthy birth. Lamaze International has created this class to provide you with the information and skills you will need to minimize discomfort and labor confidently.”

The voice over sections with the birth story were particularly helpful in making me feel like others have gone through this – so I can too.” – online course participant.

The class objectives

After completing this class learners will be able to:

  • Use learned relaxation skills suitable for early labor
  • Practice a variety of comfort techniques that minimize active labor discomfort
  • Understand back labor and how to cope with back pain while encouraging baby to turn
  • Plan for transition with effective labor strategies
  • Learn the top positions for pushing that open the pelvis and shorten the pushing time

Practice makes perfect

Interactive activities invite parents to practice coping activities, breathing skills and different positions alone and with a partner to see what might work for them in labor.  They can also follow along with a birth story from start to finish, woven throughout the course, to see how a new family applied the skills covered in the course at their own birth.  Families are encouraged to stop and practice newly learned techniques and note what they think will work well for them in labor.  The sections of the course detail what is happening physiologically during each phase and offers suggestions for emotional and physical  coping and comfort techniques that might be helpful.  Families are introduced to positions and activities to practice as they near the end of their pregnancies, so they are familiar with them prior to labor beginning.  The course builds confidence in the pregnant person that they will have many helpful techniques to try, and demonstrates the important role of the birth partner and other support people who will be in attendance.  There is also information about how to continue to promote labor progress should a woman choose to have an epidural.

I loved how easy the online format was, and I completed the entire class with my husband, who learned a lot about his role in birth supporting me. – online course participant.

This self-paced class is accessible on both desktop and mobile devices, and discussion forums built into the course encourage community building and online engagement with other families.

Class participants are able to repeat the course material as often as they wish and fun quizzes spaced throughout reinforce their learning.  At the end of the course, families are provided with the benefits of taking an in-person online class, and directed to the “Find a Lamaze Class” section of the parent website to locate a class in their area.

Online courses still to come in 2015 include Parenting Together: Starting Off Strong and Prepared for Pregnancy: Start Off Right, which are still in development.  Existing classes that are available now are:

  • Labor Pain Management: Techniques for Comfort and Coping
  • VBAC: Informed and Ready
  • Breastfeeding Basics: From Birth to Back to Work
  • Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps

To learn more about this newest addition to the Lamaze International online course catalogue, preview the courses and persuse all the offerings, please visit the online course catalog.

Childbirth Education, Lamaze International, News about Pregnancy , , , ,

New Electronic Fetal Monitoring Infographic Along with Printables of All Infographics!

February 19th, 2015 by avatar

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Lamaze International has released a new infographic; “Can Good Intentions Backfire in Labor? A closer look at continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM). This infographic is suitable for childbirth educators, doulas and birth professionals to use and share with clients and students.

Many birthing people and their families feel that monitoring in the form of continuous EFM (CEFM) during labor means a safer outcome for both the pregnant person and baby.  But as the infographic clearly states, (and as the research shows) since the invention of the continuous EFM, more than 60 years ago, newborn outcomes have not improved and in fact worsened.  CEFM used on normal, healthy, low risk labors does not make things better and can often create a situation that requires action (such as a cesarean birth) when the reality is that all was fine.

EFMInfographic_FINALAs educators, we have a responsibility to the families we work with to share what the evidence shows about continuous fetal monitoring.  Families may be surprised to learn that CEFM is not necessary for a spontaneous labor that is progressing normally and with a baby who is tolerating labor well.  Many of us may cover this topic when we talk about the 4th Healthy Birth Practice – Avoid Interventions that are Not Medically Necessary.  CEFM during a low risk, spontaneous labor is not medically necessary.  Helping families to understand this information and setting them up to have conversations with their health care providers about when CEFM might become necessary is an important discussion to have in childbirth class. Now there is this Lamaze International infographic on CEFM to help you facilitate conversations with your clients and students.

Lamaze International has also listened to the needs of educators and in addition to having the infographics available on a web page, all of the infographics are available as printable 8 1/2″ x 11″ handouts that you can share with families.  Alternately, for versions to laminate or hang in your classroom or office, you can choose to print the jpg versions in the original format. And of course, they will also reside on the Lamaze International Professional website.  Hop on over to check out all the infographics on a variety of topics.

Parents can find the EFM infographic as part of the educational material on the EFM information page on the parent website.

How do you cover the topic of continuous electronic fetal monitoring in your classes?  Will you be likely to use this new infographic as part of your curriculum?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Fetal Monitoring, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Maternal Quality Improvement, Medical Interventions, Push for Your Baby, Uncategorized , , , , , ,