The recent New York Times reported story on July 8th and Editorial Board commentary on July 9th highlight what maternal and child health advocates have been saying for years— profit motives often trump what is best for infant and maternal health outcomes.
The U.S. delegation’s recent attempt to thwart a benign World Health Organization resolution to promote healthier infants around the globe is just the latest example of how, far too often, corporate interests insinuate themselves into infant and maternal health policies.
According to the article, the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva first tried to water down the resolution language and then members used threats and other intimidation tactics, including threatening to cut crucial military aid, to try to browbeat smaller nations such as Ecuador into not backing the resolution. Many breastfeeding advocates who attended the meeting in April shared their astonishment over this abrupt turn of events in real time on social media. Ultimately, the resolution prevailed.
To be clear, we believe infant formula should exist for all infants who need it and for all mothers who use their power of informed decision making to choose it, however we do not believe corporate interests, bullying tactics and intimidation should be anywhere in public health decision-making.
The WHO is charged with attaining the highest possible level of health by all people, and they should be allowed to pursue their mission without interference from corporations who benefit financially from the failure of breastfeeding or the pharmaceutical companies who profit from increased prevalence of diseases.
We call on breast milk substitute manufacturers, a $70 billion industry, to refrain from lobbying against World Health Organization resolutions, to recognize the WHO Code as applicable in all countries, to cease political contributions and allow all mamas the right to truly choose their infant feeding options without corporate or political influence.
It is always the right time to put babies before profits.
The Maternal & Child Health Communication Collective, is a national consortium of Maternal Child Health focused organizations guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive and committed to improving messaging and communication strategies in order to shift the narrative in the MCH national discourse.
Kimberly Seals Allers,
Director, The MCH Communication Collective
The MCH Communication Collective is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation