Thursday, August 30, 2012

Action Step 11: Access to IBCLC's

Photo courtesy of the IBLCE website.

This is our final blog in our World Breastfeeding Month series of articles. Today's action step is so important for nursing mothers. Although community support groups like La Leche League offer an incredible opportunity for mothers to get breastfeeding help, sometimes an IBCLC is really the key to helping a mom overcome a breastfeeding problem.
This information comes from page 48 of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.

Action 11. Ensure access to services provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.

International Board Certiied Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are the only health care professionals certified in lactation care. They have specific clinical expertise and training in the clinical management of complex problems with lactation. Better access to the care provided by IBCLCs can be achieved by accepting them as core members of the health care team and creating opportunities to prepare and train more IBCLCs from racial and ethnic minority groups that are currently not well represented in this profession.

Implementation Strategies 

Include support for lactation as an essential medical service for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children. Third party payers typically define a standard package of health benefits for women and children. Including standard coverage for IBCLC's as “covered providers” when they perform services within the scope of their certification would ensure that mothers and children have access to these services through insurance maternity benefits. Federally funded health benefit programs, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Programs, Tricare, and the Federal Employee Health Benefit program, could serve as models for such a standard benefit package.

Provide reimbursement for IBCLC's independent of their having other professional certification or licensure. The taxonomy for health care clinicians defines qualifications of clinicians to be reimbursed. One option for reimbursement would be to place certified lactation consultants within the category of “nursing service related providers,” and specifying the nature of care they provide would allow for reimbursement of IBCLC's without requiring that they are also registered nurses. Alternatively, developing state licensure of lactation consultants could help to achieve the same purpose.

Work to increase the number of racial and ethnic minority IBCLCs to better mirror the U.S. population. Racial and ethnic minority communities tend to be underserved by lactation consultants. More students from these communities could be trained in human lactation to increase careers in lactation consultation. Area Health Education Centers could be encouraged to establish community-based training sites in lactation services.

Getting Involved

A Nurturing Moment is actively involved in a program to provide IBCLC's for area doctor's offices. Many pediatric and obstetric practices around the country routinely employ the services of IBCLC's for their patients, and it is our hope that this trend will extend to the Tennessee Valley. One of our long-term goals with our non-profit, The MOM Foundation, is to mentor minority women who would aspire to a career in lactation. At present, however, we are more focused on developing peer counselors in economically disadvantaged areas who will be able to encourage breastfeeding in their own neighborhoods.

Because we have two IBCLC's on staff, we are usually able to see mothers the same day they call for help. We deeply appreciate the many doctors who routinely refer patients to us, and are thankful that they view us as part of the health-care team. We are careful to keep communication open with the referring physician because we recognize the team nature of our efforts to serve moms and babies.

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