New California Laws will help forward First 5 LA Policy Goals

LOS ANGELES——-Babies, families with young children and pregnant women all scored a major victory when Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 402 requiring all birthing hospitals to incorporate recommended breastfeeding practices and AB 290 which improves licensed child care facilities by requiring that nutritional training be integrated into current training received by directors and teachers of child care centers.

“First 5 LA is extremely pleased with the governor’s support of these bills,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA, a child advocacy and grantmaking agency. “To achieve large scale and lasting change in the lives of youngsters, families and communities, we must have public policy change that will benefit children prenatal through age 5 throughout Los Angeles County.”

SB 402, authored by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), has moved California closer to current policy and practice recommendations for maternity care. His bill requires all general acute care hospitals and special hospitals that have a perinatal unit to adopt specific steps for successful breastfeeding.

Research shows breastfeeding benefits both mothers and their babies. It also provides a significant cost savings for the health care system and employers. Studies point out that breastfeeding improves health outcomes by reducing children’s risks for acute infections and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes and obesity.

“What happens in the hospital or birth center plays a crucial role in establishing breastfeeding and helping mothers continue to breastfeed after leaving the facility,” said Belshé, whose agency earlier funded a multi-million dollar hospital-based project to improve Los Angeles County’s low breastfeeding rates. “The new state policy is a huge step forward for breastfeeding and will help new mothers get the support they need from the start in order to reach their own breastfeeding goals.”

The other legislation AB 290, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), relates to the Child Day Care Act and provides that for licenses, a director or teacher who receives the health and safety training shall also have at least one hour of childhood nutrition training as part of the preventive health practices.

As one of its 10 public policy goals over the next five years, First 5 LA is encouraging expanded federal food programs with higher nutritional standards and better nutrition in child care settings. According to Belshé, childhood obesity is an epidemic with detrimental health consequences, as well as serious economic costs, healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand in an environmental approach to promote healthy childhood weight and early learning. The other nine policy goals are:

  • Increasing supports for breastfeeding
  • Promoting comprehensive, affordable health insurance for all
  • Promoting reductions in drug, alcohol and tobacco use by parents/caregivers
  • Expanding access to, and improve quality of, early care and education programs
  • Expanding voluntary home visiting
  • Supporting integration and sharing of data
  • Strengthening the prenatal to 5 workforce
  • Expanding early identification and intervention
  • Promoting family strengthening principles and prevention practices in the child welfare system

“To advance these goals, First 5 LA incorporates a variety of tools such as public policy development, issue education, advocacy, public policy grant making and collaboration,” said Belshé. “We also collaborate with others dedicated to improving the lives of children in these important efforts.” For more information on First 5 LA’s policy agenda