Equity and collaboration are important to Tonya Lang, co-founder the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Lactation Collaborative of California. So is giving credit where credit is due.
These values also make it difficult for Tonya to stand in the spotlight as the winner of the U.S. Lactation Consultant Association’s Terry Jo Curtis Award.
“It’s an honor to receive the award because it brings national recognition to the work we’re doing to improve AANHPI breastfeeding rates and the accuracy in which data on those rates are collected and reported,” she said. “But the work we’re doing is far-reaching, long-term and daunting at times. The only reason we’ve come as far as we have is because we have so many committed lactation consultants, providers and advocates working behind the scenes.”
The Terry Jo Curtis Award was established to recognize a USLCA member who is actively working to improve equity within the U.S. breastfeeding landscape, in honor of Terry Jo Curtis, IBCLC, who died in 2014. Terry Jo was the founder of the Black Breastfeeding Association in Indiana. She worked hard to decrease infant mortality and promote equity in the landscape of professional breastfeeding support.
“What is really meaningful,” Tonya said, “is the award’s focus on equity. It validates the importance of making sure AANHPI communities are seen and voices are heard as we work to improve the success of lactation initiation and duration.”
Tonya’s work in advocating for AANHPI lactation equity at the national, state, and local levels includes:
- Co-founder and Chair of the Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Task Force (ASAP!)
- Co-Chair and on the Steering Committee of the Alameda County Breastfeeding Coalition.
- Acquiring a NACCHO grant (2021-22) to culturally tailor a prenatal toolkit for the Chinese and Vietnamese breastfeeding communities
- Acquiring Friends of La Leche League (LLL) grant to create the ASAP! Social Media Toolkit, which contains six culturally relevant educational messages in 11 AANHPI languages.
- Securing funds for two AANHPI students to train for the IBCLC exam.
- Advocating for disaggregated data to accurately reflect AANHPI breastfeeding rate by group.
- Advancing the AANHPI lactation narrative by delivering presentations for the California Breastfeeding Coalition, California WIC Association, and U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.
- Actively serving La Leche League Leader (LLL) for almost two decades, supporting families in Oakland and Alameda and serving on the board of LLL of Northern California, Hawaii, and Northern Nevada Area.
USLCA Chapter of the Year: Central Valley Lactation Association
The Central Valley Lactation Association (CVLA), based out of Bakersfield, has received USLCA’s 2023 Outstanding Chapter Award. This award recognizes a chapter’s achievements and dedication to the mission of USLCA.
According to CVLA representative Christine Staricka, the chapter formed in 2013 to connect the local network of lactation care professionals in the valley and provide a way to facilitate continuing lactation education in the area.
“We believe that by supporting those who support lactation, we can continually improve the environment of breastfeeding for local families,” Christine said. “We work hard to fulfill our mission by maintaining our network of local lactation professionals, informing them of lactation education opportunities, and facilitating the growth and development of the next generation of IBCLCs through mentoring at Baby Café Bakersfield.”
Baby Café Bakersfield, under the management of CVLA, has created free access to IBCLC care to local families over the past nine years.
“We are extremely proud of how we adapted our lactation services during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the changing needs of our local community, and CVLA’s management of Baby Café Bakersfield allowed us to make changes swiftly and sustainably,” Christine said.
With only a handful of members, CVLA focuses on high-impact work and understands the importance of developing more lactation professionals throughout the valley. The chapter hopes to build upon prior success in expanding their efforts beyond Kern County and into the greater Central Valley.