Diaper Need Recognized as a Public Health Issue

Contemporary Pediatrics Interview

“Diaper need is a public health concern that impacts infant health, parental stress, and families’ abilities to fully participate in society,” says Kelley Massengale, PHD, MPH, of the National Diaper Bank Network, in are recent interview published in Contemporary Pediatrics (January 27, 2020) by Rachael Zimlich, RN, BSN.

Titled, “Diaper banks underutilized for families in need,” the article highlights the findings of a study which found that “just 4% of children in [these] low-income households find relief through community diaper banks.” The following are excerpts from the article.

“The problem isn’t how much existing diaper banks are utilized but rather the amount of resources available,” says Massengale, who led the study. There are many areas in the US where families in need don’t have access to resources like diaper banks.

She says, “We need federal, state, and local policies that address diaper need. It can take time to implement such policies. In the meantime, diaper banks need increased support so that they can continue serving their communities and grow to serve others.”

Too much need, not enough support

“Existing diaper banks are not necessarily underutilized. Rather, the challenge is that not all communities have diaper banks,” Massengale says. “Within communities served by diaper banks, the percentage of met diaper need is much higher than when looking at a larger geographic area such as a state or the entire country. The diaper bank community has built an effective infrastructure across the country but at this time does not serve every community.”

Not only do diaper banks meet a basic need, Massengale says, but they also help engage families in other needed social support services. The problem with trying to do more comes down to funding, she says.

“Diaper banks are nonprofit organizations that rely on philanthropy and public charity. When we consider other unmet basic needs that low-income families may have—housing, food insecurity, trouble paying for utilities, transportation needs, health care, and other challenges—our country has federal policy programs that can address at least a portion of these needs,” she says. “There are no federal policy programs that address diaper need for all low-income families. Our society relies on a network of nonprofit organizations to address the public health concern of diaper need.”

Massengale’s full study, which examined unmet diaper need in the US, was published recently in the American Journal of Public Health.