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Gathering More Voices: The Hispanic Panel at the 2014 Lactation Summit

6The 2014 Lactation Summit was designed to listen and learn from the missing voices of the profession so that strategies for dismantling institutional oppression within the profession can be developed.

Much was learned from the 2014 Summit, but there is still listening to be done. Over the next few weeks, Lactation Matters will be breaking out the Summit findings from each community that spoke at the Summit. Our goal is two-fold: to shine a brighter light on the concerns raised in each session, and to solicit other voices who were not present at the Summit.

The 2014 Summit was the result of a year-long planning effort by a 22-member design team made up of diverse representatives from seven countries of the world. It was hosted jointly by International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®), International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®), and Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC).

The design team recommended a structure to hear from 26 individuals representing the following categories:

  • African Americans in the U.S.
  • Hispanics in the U.S.
  • Native Americans in the U.S.
  • North and South America
  • Asia Pacific
  • Russia and Europe
  • Communities that cross geographic and ethnic lines (males, lay breastfeeding support groups, those working in remote regions of the world, and the LGBTQI community)

While there are specific barriers unique to various racial, ethnic, geographic, and other groups, several general themes emerged that were common to many of the groups. These findings will help guide future discussions and action plans needed to dismantle institutional oppression.

The following is a summary of the assessments made by individuals representing the panel on Hispanics in the U.S. Read our other posts on the assessments made by individuals representing the panel on African Americans in the U.S. and Native Americans in the U.S.. To access information on all of the panels presented, read a complete summary of the report here.

In future posts, we will be highlighting the assessments made by other communities in the order they were presented in the Summary Report.

We hope that, after reading, you will consider sharing your comments, ideas, and suggested solutions. Please click here to offer your input.

U.S. – Hispanic Panel

A multitude of barriers impact access to the lactation profession within Hispanic communities in the U.S. Although similarities were found with other groups, unique issues were noted among Hispanics in the United States.

  • Generalizations about Hispanic groups – are frequently made, clustering all groups that speak Spanish into one category of “Hispanic.” In fact, the word “Hispanic” is widely used to denote a single population group in national data, research methodologies, and general policies and programming. However, “Hispanics” are not a single group and are, instead, a diverse body of peoples from many different countries, traditions, and cultural practices. Even language variances are noted within Spanish-speaking cultures. One attendee noted, “Knowing one type of Hispanic means…knowing one type of Hispanic.”
  • Anti-immigrant/anti-Hispanic attitudes – are pervasive throughout the United States, and begin at an early age. Typical assumptions include the myth that people from Spanish-speaking countries (or for whom English is a second language) lack the education to attain the profession or cannot communicate in English and cannot perform well. These assumptions are hurtful and degrading, and result in a lack of the support that aspiring IBCLCs need to pursue the profession. Hispanic immigrants do not feel welcomed; the social, cultural and professional discomfort that many IBCLCs from the profession’s dominant culture feel about Hispanic immigrants erects barriers to their certification as IBCLCs, and to their advancement to positions of power and leadership within the IBCLC profession.
  • The immigrant experience – A fundamental lack of understanding of the immigrant experience is widespread throughout the dominant culture of the United States. The typical immigrant’s story is filled with human drama, with characteristics and qualities such as sacrifice, courage, loss, hope, tragedy, principle, fear, character, and sorrow. These qualities permeate and define every immigrant’s relationship to the U.S., its residents, and as a result, the IBCLC profession. To fail to understand this is to fail to understand immigrants.
  • Structural barriers – that keep mothers and babies from breastfeeding in traditional “Hispanic” cultural groups also keep people from becoming IBCLCs. Acculturation contributes to a significant decline in breastfeeding rates among people from Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Language barriers – are major issues in the United States among Spanish-speaking and English as a Second Language (ESL) communities. Often health providers do not know Spanish and rely on translation or interpretation services at health facilities, which are not always personal. These same language barriers make it difficult for Spanish-speaking people to access required coursework, appropriate clinical mentors, clinical hours, and continuing education.
  • Lack of knowledge – among those in the dominant culture about the educational opportunities in other countries. This lack of knowledge has led to assumptions that Spanish-speaking people are not well educated.

We welcome your comments, ideas, and suggested solutions. Please click here to offer your input.

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