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Month: July 2018

1,000 Days on Trump Administration’s Attempt to Block Global Breastfeeding Resolution

Over the last week, breastfeeding has become a front-page issue. On Sunday, July 8 the New York Times published a story about the U.S. Government’s opposition to a World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution to encourage breastfeeding. This story sparked unprecedented media interest and a public outcry against the efforts of both the U.S. delegation and the infant formula industry to undermine global breastfeeding policy and public health.

Many leading maternal and child health organizations issued statements, including the American Public Health Association, the United States Breastfeeding Committee, and a joint statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

1,000 Days has long advocated for infant formula manufacturers to adopt more ethical and responsible marketing practices in compliance with the WHO Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes (also known as “The Code”) – and we continue to do so in light of the reports coming out of the World Health Assembly.

Our Executive Director, Lucy Sullivan, was interviewed on CNN’s HLN about the WHA breastfeeding resolution and the big business of infant formula. “You have to remember that the formula industry is a 70 billion dollar a year industry and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.”

Here are some of the other major media outlets covering this story:

Why It’s Important
Breastfeeding is proven to save lives and improve women and children’s health. By improving global rates of breastfeeding, over 800,000 babies’ lives could be saved worldwide every year. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of babies dying from SIDS, respiratory infections, diarrhea and other serious medical conditions. Additionally, breastfeeding has powerful health benefits for moms as it lowers a woman’s risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and heart disease.

But infant formula is BIG business. While formula is a necessity for many families—which is why the World Health Organization and we at 1,000 Days support the safe use of infant formula when needed—infant formula companies are working to undermine breastfeeding and weaken measures that protect parents and children from the misleading and unethical tactics they use to push their products.

We believe that no government should stand in the way of breastfeeding and no company should interfere with policies to protect the health of women and children.

What We’re Doing
Over the past week, 1,000 Days has spoken out strongly against efforts that seek to push private profit over public health.

Here’s What You Can Do
Your voice matters. Sign our petition and tell infant formula companies to STOP putting their private profits before the health of moms and babies! Your signature will send a strong message that people around the world believe public health comes first. And by sharing this petition with family and friends, you can help us have even more of an impact.

Thank you for standing with us to ensure that moms and babies everywhere get the best start to life.

Calling on Companies to Fully Comply with the Code

Companies that make milk formulas must market their products responsibly to ensure that they do not undermine breastfeeding or infant and child health. As the recent reports by Save the Children UK and the Access to Nutrition Foundation confirm, these six companies have made little progress in curbing the unethical marketing of their products. In fact, none of these companies even acknowledges the Code in its entirety.

Together with partners, we are asking the world’s six largest formula manufacturers—Abbott, Danone, Friesland Campina, Kraft/Heinz, Reckitt Benckiser (fka Mead Johnson) and Nestle—to comply with the rules set out in the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions (“the Code”) and to stop lobbying against measures to protect breastfeeding. Read the full letter here.

Since sending this letter to the heads of the six major infant formula manufacturers, we have received one response to date. Read it here.

Guest Post: When the US opposes evidence-based efforts to promote breastfeeding, what comes next?

The original version of this piece was posted at www.cgdev.org.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported an unexpected confrontation at the World Health Assembly (WHA). The US delegation tried to thwart the passage of a resolution to promote breastfeeding and reduce misleading marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

The Trump administration’s actions elicited widespread condemnation, with statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, United States Breastfeeding Committee, International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health, and 1000 Days.

The events that unfolded at the WHA reflect the Trump administration’s deeply troubling disregard for evidence and its impact on an issue that shouldn’t be controversial: promoting what is best for babies. These actions have nonetheless shined a light on a critical global health issue. Here are three key considerations policymakers should keep in mind to advance much-needed progress on the issue.

Stay focused on the evidence
There is robust, comprehensive evidence around the benefits of breastfeeding. According to a 2016 Lancet series, universal breastfeeding could save the lives of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers as well as $300 billion a year. There is very strong evidence that in places without access to clean water, using formula transmits water-borne disease and leads to higher infant mortality. An NBER study estimates that in 1981, at the peak of the infant formula controversy, the availability of formula increased infant mortality among mothers without access to clean water, resulting in approximately 66,000 infant deaths in low- and middle-income countries that year.

Dedicate more resources and pursue integrated approaches
There are immense benefits that could be realized from increased resources and prioritization of breastfeeding promotion and support. According to a report by 1,000 Days with WHO, the World Bank, and UNICEF, for every $1 invested in breast-feeding, $35 are created in returns. Promoting and supporting breastfeeding is most effective when integrated with other early childhood development interventions. This includes enabling policies—such as paid leave, which enables women to breastfeed for longer periods of time, increases the likelihood that babies receive check-ups and immunizations, and promotes cognitive and social development by increasing the time parents have to nurture and care for their babies. The Nurturing Care For Early Childhood Development framework provides comprehensive solutions to support early childhood development outcomes from pregnancy to age 3. Governments and societies around the world would reap exponential benefits from integrated approaches to promote health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, early learning, and safety and security.

Put principles over profit
An important dimension of the WHA controversy is the role of formula companies in putting profit over the wellbeing of babies. Violations of the World Health Organization (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which restricts formula companies from directly advertising to mothers and health workers, are rampant. Many of these companies also have robust lobbying efforts.

These practices are disturbing, and the Trump administration and leaders around the world should call upon companies to follow the WHO code. 

Looking ahead
Now is the time for not only the Trump administration, but all those who champion improved wellbeing of babies, to redouble evidence-based efforts to promote and support breastfeeding. A critical part of doing so is putting new energy into approaches to promote nurturing care of the world’s youngest children and invest in the supports their families need to be successful in a modern world.

Cindy Huang is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Joan Lombardi, PhD, advises a number of organizations on child and family policy. Both Joan and Cindy serve on the board of 1000 Days.

Senate Holds Hearing on Paid Leave

Last week, the powerful Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on paid leave in its subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy. The hearing lifted up the critical need for paid leave and how our current patchwork of paid leave policies fall short of supporting all infants and families. It confirmed what we already know: there is strong support for paid leave—from Senators, from business, and from families.

The lack of access to paid family leave is a public health crisis. Right now 1 in 4 new moms return to work within 2 weeks of giving birth — a staggering statistic that impacts infant and maternal health outcomes, child development and the overall economic health of families and communities.

Congressional hearings are just the first step in the process of crafting legislation. It is a chance for Senators and their staff to hear from expert witnesses, receive comments from their constituents (you!), and ask their questions about policy options for addressing paid leave. This was a critical moment to ensure our elected officials understand how why paid leave is needed to ensure all children have the strongest start to life.

Unfortunately not all paid leave policies are created equal. Some paid leave policies fall short of ensuring that ALL working families have access to paid leave. 1,000 Days supports Congress’ efforts to advance comprehensive and equitable paid leave for ALL working families, regardless of where they live or where they work. Read 1,000 Days’ position on paid family leave.

Now the real work begins: moving legislation through the full Congress. We need to keep up the drumbeat and use this hearing’s momentum as an opportunity to lift up the words of families across the country and to advocate for a strong national paid leave policy that supports families during the first 1,000 days.

Statement from Lucy Sullivan on the U.S. Opposition to the World Health Assembly Breastfeeding Resolution

Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018 – Well before the New York Times article, “U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials” broke, 1,000 Days reported on and exposed the Trump Administration’s aggressive tactics to silence support for the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly. In this case, despite the U.S. delegation’s efforts, public health ultimately triumphed over private profit as the resolution was adopted with few changes. We believe that no government should stand in the way of breastfeeding and no company should interfere with policies to protect the health of women and children.

It was clear at the World Health Assembly, as it is now, that the Trump Administration is following the lead of the powerful infant formula industry as they work to undermine breastfeeding and weaken measures that protect parents and children from the misleading and unethical tactics they use to push their products. Infant formula company giants like Abbott, Mead Johnson/RB, Nestle and Danone rake in billions of dollars in profit every year at the expense of the health of mothers and babies all over the world.

The consequences of low rates of breastfeeding are devastating—claiming the lives of over 800,000 young children every year. Breastfeeding is also of paramount importance for women’s health as it protects against breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well as heart disease, a leading cause of death in women in the U.S. and other countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that there are babies who need to use formula and it supports the safe use of infant formula when needed. Despite claims to the contrary, there was nothing in the original World Health Assembly resolution or WHO documents that called for limiting or denying women’s access to infant formula. This is disinformation pushed by the formula industry and amplified by the Trump Administration. While it is encouraging to see President Trump stating on Twitter that he doesn’t believe women should be denied access to a product that might be medically necessary, the reality is that infant formula is widely available. Moreover, it is wrong to suggest, as the President did, that infant formula is a solution to malnutrition and poverty. In fact, research conducted by 1,000 Days together with the World Bank, WHO, UNICEF and others shows the opposite: countries lose billions of dollars each year in the form of avoidable health care costs and lower wages as a result of low breastfeeding rates.

We are pleased that the public outcry over the U.S. Government’s actions at the World Health Assembly elicited statements from President Trump and others in the Administration claiming that the U.S. supports mothers and breastfeeding. If this is in fact the case, the Trump Administration will work to finally put in place a comprehensive paid family policy in the United States that covers all workers, gives all parents the time they need to care for their babies and enables women to reach their breastfeeding goals. In addition, if the Trump Administration wants to do more to support breastfeeding and mothers, it will encourage all formula companies to abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (often referred to as “the Code”) which lays out rules that govern how infant formula should be marketed in order to prevent babies from dying or getting sick. Currently, no infant formula company follows the Code. We should now use this moment to call on the CEOs of the major formula companies to publicly commit to working toward adopting more ethical and responsible marketing practices in line with the rules set out in the Code.

A Year at 1,000 Days

Before I joined 1,000 Days, I already knew that this was a team I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to continue to work on nutrition and what better place than at 1,000 Days, an organization led by women and dedicated to improving nutrition and ensuring women and children have the healthiest first 1,000 days. I was able to join 1,000 Days for a year as a Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellow, which has provided me a great community of public health advocates, alongside the opportunity to continue to advocate for nutrition.

I started my work on nutrition advocacy by working for the Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) in 2014. I was motivated by my own first-hand experience with the heavy price of inequitable health services and I wanted to be a part of efforts that improve health systems as well as people’s lives.

Working in a country where malnutrition rates are among the highest globally, I became aware of the negative effects of malnutrition and the ways in which it continues to trap people in poverty. Malnutrition exerts pressure on health care systems and can deny children basic opportunities to maximize their potential. Stunting, a chronic form of malnutrition that impairs cognitive and physical growth, affects 151 million children worldwide. In Zambia alone, 40% of all children are stunted. I dedicated my time in Zambia advocating to improve the nutrition of these children to policymakers.

At 1,000 Days, I was also able to bring my campaign efforts as a Youth Advocate with Global Citizen to my work. This community allowed me to have a global stage and to share my own stories and those of the people I worked with in Zambia. I was honored to speak about Good Food and Nutrition at a side-event during the United Nations General Assembly and help launch the #Bethegeneration campaign at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

It was an exciting time to be with 1,000 Days. I was able to be a part of two groundbreaking events in the global nutrition movement: the Global Nutrition Summit in Milan, Italy and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Gathering in Abidjan, Cote, D’Ivoire. In Milan, the Global Nutrition Summit brought forth new commitments from new funders. In Abidjan, I was united with hundreds of people from around the world working towards a malnutrition free world.

I’ve had the chance to deepen my understanding of how nutrition impacts development,  including exploring the linkages between nutrition and other sectors. During World Water Week, I explored how poor WASH systems and a lack of access to good nutrition, combined with conflict, can undermine the resilience of already vulnerable populations.

As my year at 1,000 Days comes to a close, I am reminded of my first day at 1,000 days. I moved from Zambia to Washington, DC for this opportunity and my excitement, anticipation and optimism were at a high. The time at 1,000 Days did not disappoint. It allowed me to apply a different lens to my advocacy and awakened me to the global scale of the problem of malnutrition — and how much remains to be done. But despite this challenge, I have also seen the many advocates and coalitions that have committed themselves to this work, making me optimistic about the future of the world’s children.

P.S. Watch Mwandwe chat more about her experience at 1,000 Days here.