Thursday, September 20, 2012

Formula Ads in Pediatrician Offices

Donna at Banned from Baby Showers wrote a post about how she tried to get her pediatricians office to remove the free formula coupons from their check-out desk. She very bravely spoke up about it being a problem, but found the receptionists didn't think it was a problem and didn't have anything to say. Then she links to the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on the distribution and display of formula materials in pediatrician offices.

I'm going to break this statement down for you. It states
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Surgeon General have stated strongly and clearly that patients must be protected from commercial infant formula marketing; and Whereas the Federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) as well as American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Public Health Association (APHA), and the AAP all identify distribution of formula company packs as “inappropriate in medical environments and recommend against it.
If you're a pediatrician, receptionist in a pediatricians office, nurse, obstetrician, and NURSING MOTHER, it is important to know that
research has demonstrated that the free distribution of commercial materials such as formula samples, diaper bags, formula coupons, or other gifts via commercial infant formula marketing implicitly endorses formula feeding and creates the impression that clinicians favor formula feeding over breastfeeding, and research demonstrates that this activity decreases exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding.
So if you TRULY support breastfeeding, or want to breastfeed yourself, it doesn't make sense to have the freebies there.
The Academy advise pediatricians not to provide formula 43 company gift bags, coupons, and industry-authored handouts to the 44 parents of newborns and infants in office and clinic settings.

But Pediatrician offices and hospitals will hand them out anyway, because the companies provide them with money and incentives.And don't think that your doctor, who says he/she is pro-breastfeeding, won't take those incentives.

This actively violates the World Health Organiation's International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes, a position statement which is in accordance with evidence-based research recognized by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and others (USBC statement).

Many parents will say that they were legitimately unable to breastfeed and the free coupons are a godsend for them to be able to buy the formula that they needed to. But would they have not formula-fed without the coupons? I highly doubt it. But the presence of these things have been proven by numerous research studies to actively hinder breastfeeding. Here are just two:
  • Advertising of infant formula in obstetricians’ offices lowers the rate of breastfeeding among women who visit those offices prenatally (Howard et al. 2000)
  • Formula samples provided in health care settings present the appearance that health care providers sanction and encourage the use of formula for all mothers. This practice undermines the entire health care system and weakens the credibility of health care providers. (Hartman & Desjardins 2007)
So it's like weighing a few dollars off coupons vs. the health and medical costs of a nation.

Perhaps if pediatricians insist that the coupons are there for people who truly cannot breastfeed and benefit from them, than they should either have them when a woman presents saying she can't or does not want to breastfeed. Or they could have them side by side with coupons for free breastfeeding assistance!

What do you think a possible solution could be? 

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