Expert's Opinion

Small Things Impact Big Things

By Joanne Samuel Goldblum, executive director, National Diaper Bank Network | April 28, 2016

one in three U.S. moms experience diaper need; companies can make a big difference in this fight

I remember the first time I handed a package of donated disposable diapers to an out-of-work, single mom. She couldn’t afford this seemingly small basic need for her baby. She accepted the package, and immediately put a clean, dry diaper on her son.
 
It was rewarding to provide something, so simple and so small, that helped improve the emotional and physical well-being of an infant and his mother.
 
That was more than a decade ago, when I worked as a clinical social worker doing home visitations. Too often, I’ve witnessed families reusing disposable diapers—dumping solid waste out and air-drying urine soaked diapers—because they could not afford the supply of diapers their babies need.
 
Imagine that the last dollars of your weekly budget went to buy groceries for your family, and you had no money to buy diapers for your daughter. What would you do?
 
One in three U.S. moms reports having experienced “diaper need,” defined as the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep a baby clean, dry, and healthy. Diaper need is pervasive among the 5.3 million American children under the age of three living in poor and low-income families. 
 
Some may consider diaper need a ‘first-world problem.” However, for individuals and companies working in the nonwovens marketplace, you know that basic hygiene products, like disposable diapers, are a fact of modern living, and increasingly in demand throughout the world. The products you create vastly improve the quality of life of families everywhere.
 
I believe that clean diapers are a basic need for all infants and toddlers, as essential to their health and well-being as food, shelter and a parent’s love. 
 
In the U.S., there are federal anti-poverty programs that help provide some necessities such as food and heat, but offer no assistance to help families acquire diapers. Too often, this leaves moms, dads, grandparents and other caregivers without the means to keepbabies clean, dry, and healthy.
 
Five years ago, a group of diaper bank leaders from around the U.S. came together, led by Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s Huggies Brand, to address diaper need and formed the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN). Today, our national movement includes advocacy, programming, research, public policy, and a dynamic membership of more than 280 diaper banks and diaper pantries that help struggling families in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. 
 
This past March, our issue garnered the attention of the White House, which called on diaper manufacturers and suppliers to help make diapers more affordable to parents. In response, NDBN’sfounding sponsor, Huggies® Brand upped its annual donation of diapers to the Network from 20 million to 22 million. Several other diapers brands also announced steps to help address diaper need in the U.S.  We welcomethe support, because toomany struggling families go unserved by existing diaper distribution programs. We know that NDBN cannot go it alone, especially internationally. 
 
NDBN is not affiliated with organizations outside of the U.S. Yet, we know that diaper bank programs operate in many countries, including Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, among others. And, based upon the international requests for assistance that NDBN receives regularly, we believe that diaper need is great throughout the world.   
 
Diapers Do Matter
 We know that motherhood is universal, and not having enough diapers can increase maternal depression, stress and anxiety, all of which negatively impact the lives of families. This is according to research conducted by NDBN and the New Haven MOMS Partnership at the Yale University School of Medicine, and published in Pediatrics magazine.
  
Just as a food banks are a reliable source of support for families in need, diaper banks and diaper pantries can help meet the basic needs of families in crisis.
 
There is much work to be done, and diaper manufacturers and suppliers can help by working with individuals, community organizations, faith-based groups, and elected officials to help address diaper need. 
 
Here’s a short list of what companies can do:
 
·      Helpfund, conduct, and expand research on diaper need, its prevalence, and its impact on the physical, mental, and economic, well-being of families.
 
·      Support efforts to create, manufacture and distribute low-cost, quality diapers to families living in poverty.
 
·      Become actively involved with philanthropic partners to help solve diaper need by donating dollars and basic needs products.
 
·      Help expand national efforts that support families and the diaper bank community, including Diaper Need Awareness Week (Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2016) and the Diaper Banks in America Conference (Oct. 26-28, 2016), and create similar programs internationally.
 
The bottom line is all support is good support. After all small things impact big things. We can eliminate #DiaperNeed. 
 
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Joanne Samuel Goldblumserves as executive director of National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), the nonprofit organization she founded in 2011, with the support of Huggies®Brand. Recognizedas a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader, Joanne is an expert on child poverty issues and the leading voice on diaper need. She pens a monthly blog on The Huffington Post. More information on NDBN and diaper need is available at www.nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org, and on Twitter(@DiaperNetwork) and Facebook(facebook.com/NationalDiaperBankNetwork).
 
 
 

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