Community Outreach Finalist: Kenya Eddings

Community Outreach Finalist: Kenya Eddings
Kenya Eddings of the Arkansas Department of Health

For Kenya Eddings, the wellness director at the Arkansas Department of Health, it’s simple — workplace lactation accommodation is a win-win for both employees and employers. During her time at the Arkansas Department of Health, Eddings has devoted her time to advocating for new mothers in the workplace by creating and implementing lactation accommodation rooms, nooks and spaces across the state.

“There are many benefits breastfeeding provides both mom and baby,” Eddings said. “And, while many new working moms begin breastfeeding, the number drops dramatically when they return to work. This can be attributed to a variety of factors — among them, lack of workplace breastfeeding accommodations and support.”

Since she began working in the field of workplace wellness, Eddings has been able to directly impact a number of worksites, higher education institutes and community events with the installation of breastfeeding accommodations for nursing women. Eddings was personally involved in the installations at the Clinton National Airport, Arkansas State Fairgrounds, RiverFest, Philander Smith College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Junior League of Little Rock’s Holiday House as well as seven early childhood education centers in southeast Arkansas. That’s just the beginning. Plans are underway for installations in up to 15 higher education institutes and vocational/technical schools, as well as up to 10 African-American places of worship this year.

“Oftentimes, worksites do not know they should or even how to provide lactation accommodations for employees and patrons,” Eddings said. “The fact that many workplaces, schools and communities do not have the technical assistance needed to establish lactation accommodation plans, policies and rooms is what sets my outreach program apart from others in the community.”

When Eddings works with organizations, she will conduct a site visit and help them identify spaces where they could install breastfeeding accommodations. She also delivers training on the Arkansas laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed/pump at work and in the community, how employees can talk with supervisors, how supervisors can accommodate and how the accommodation affects their bottom line as it relates to employee retention and recognition as a family-friendly workplace.

With the help of Healthy Active Arkansas, Kenya Eddings established the Breastfeeding Awareness Day aimed at helping political officials and the public learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and the Breastfeeding Education and Support Together program (BEST), an online workplace breastfeeding support group aimed at providing support to new and expectant working moms in the workplace.