Page 10 - Public Citizen News November-December 2013

Basic HTML Version

10
November/December 2013
Public Citizen News
Many Top Hospitals Ban Infant Formula Marketing
awards
Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist with Public
Citizen's Congress Watch division, has been named by
The Hill as one of D.C.’s Top Lobbyists, in the Grassroots
category, for the sixth year. “Holman is a sage for the good-
government groups that keep an eye on K Street firms and
other moneyed interests,” The Hill writes.
By Eva Seidelman
The tide is finally turning in the
long effort to end the pernicious
practice of infant formula mar-
keting in hospitals.
“Top Hospitals’ Formula for
Success: No Marketing of Infant
Formula,” co-authored by Pub-
lic Citizen and the Ban the Bags
campaign and issued in October,
shows that the vast majority of
the nation’s top hospitals have
stopped infant formula promo-
tion, including through the give-
away of free samples.
There is scientific consensus
that exclusive breastfeeding for
the first six months of a baby’s
life offers significant health ben-
efits for the mother and the child,
and overwhelming evidence
shows that infant formula mar-
keting in hospitals undermines
breastfeeding rates.
Even so, the biggest players in
the multibillion-dollar U.S. infant
formula industry — Big Pharma’s
Abbott and Mead Johnson, and
food giant Nestle — have under-
mined breastfeeding rates among
women in the U.S. through ag-
gressive in-hospital marketing of
formula. The formula giants per-
suade hospital maternity units
to distribute “gift” bags embla-
zoned with company logos and
containing formula samples to
new mothers when they leave
the hospital, regardless of wheth-
er they intend to breastfeed ex-
clusively. The companies provide
hospitals with free supplies in ex-
change for distributing the bags.
Numerous studies show that
mothers breastfeed less when
they receive the infant formula
sample bags. Mothers often per-
ceive them as a hospital endorse-
ment of formula, according to
research. The U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services has
estimated that on average, wom-
en save up to $1,500 per year in
formula costs if they exclusively
breastfeed, in addition to health
care cost savings. Many mothers
justifiably cannot or choose not
to breastfeed, but in-hospital for-
mula marketing also costs them.
The “free” products are typically
the more expensive, brand-name
formula, and mothers who re-
ceive the commercial discharge
bags spend an average of $700
a year on these more expensive
products.
Public Citizen’s report, based
on a survey of hospitals on U.S.
News & World Report’s list of
top-ranked facilities, found that
82 percent (14 of 17) of the fa-
cilities listed on the U.S. News’
Honor Roll of overall “best” hos-
pitals reported having a policy
or practice against distributing
formula company-sponsored dis-
charge bags or other promotional
materials. Two-thirds of the top
hospitals in gynecology (30 of 45)
reported not promoting formula,
with an additional five reporting
that they limit formula company-
sponsored discharge bag distri-
bution to mothers who request
them, or based on other criteria.
“This report shows that prohib-
iting infant formula marketing is
not only a recommended policy,
but a best practice employed by
the top hospitals,” said Public
Citizen’s Executive Vice Presi-
dent Margrete Strand Rangnes.
Public Citizen’s study reaffirms
other data showing that hospitals
have been steadily trending to-
ward ending formula promotion
over the past decade. According
to a Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) survey,
27.4 percent of hospitals had
discontinued the formula dis-
charge bags in 2007, and by 2011,
45.5 percent had ended the prac-
tice.
“It is such wonderful news that
so many of the top-ranked hospi-
tals have eliminated the distribu-
tion of commercial infant formu-
la discharge bags,” said Marsha
Walker, RN, co-chair of the Ban
the Bags campaign. “This demon-
strates such a significant commit-
ment to the health of their littlest
patients. Our experience at the
Ban the Bags campaign in Massa-
chusetts has shown that formula
marketing does not belong in the
hospital, and hospitals should
market health and nothing else.”
These changes can be attrib-
uted to the discouragement of
formula marketing by the U.S.
Surgeon General and the CDC,
in addition to Public Citizen and
breastfeeding advocates’ efforts.
Further, all hospitals in Massa-
chusetts and Rhode Island have
voluntarily banned discharge
bags, while others, including
Maryland, North Carolina, Okla-
homa, California and New York,
are steadily moving in that direc-
tion as a result of grassroots and
government initiatives.
Public Citizen’s report is the
next step in its national cam-
paign to end formula promotion
in health care facilities. In 2012,
Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert
project, which combats com-
mercialism in communities, sent
letters to 2,600 hospitals urg-
ing them to eliminate formula
marketing.
Additionally, more than 16,600
people have signed Public Citi-
zen’s petition calling on the
three major formula companies
to stop marketing in health care
facilities. Visit http://citizen.org/
infant-formula to learn more
about Public Citizen’s campaign.
Numerous studies show that mothers
breastfeed less when they receive the infant
formula sample bags. Mothers often perceive
them as a hospital endorsement of formula,
according to research. The U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services has estimated
that on average, women save up to $1,500
per year in formula costs if they exclusively
breastfeed, in addition to health care cost
savings.