Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go Massachusetts!

Massachusetts Becomes First State to Prohibit Formula Marketing in

Boston, Dec 20, 2005
In a groundbreaking step for mothers and babies, Massachusetts became
the first state to prohibit hospitals from giving out free formula
company diaper bags to new parents. Giving out these bags reduces the
duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding and is considered unethical by
many national and international groups, including the World Health
Organization. Multiple studies, even from prestigious medical journals
such as the Lancet, have shown that the bags interfere with
breastfeeding, causing moms to switch to formula sooner, or quit nursing
altogether-- even when the bags do not contain formula samples.

For decades, formula companies used hospitals to hand out diaper bags
stocked with coupons and free samples. Most parents see these as a "free
gift," but the bags are a marketing technique that implies that the
hospital endorses the product, successfully boosting sales of formula at
the expense of breastfeeding. "One day, formula marketing in hospitals
will go the way of cigarette ads on TV," said Melissa Bartick, MD, Chair
of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.

The new rules on formula marketing are part of a much larger update of
existing perinatal regulations written by the Department of Public
Health and today approved by the Public Health Council. Hospitals must
follow DPH regulations in order to be allowed to operate in the state.
The regulations contain many other mandates that help promote and
support breastfeeding and otherwise limit formula marketing.

In banning the distribution of these items, the DPH acknowledges that
there is no medical justification for the institutional marketing of
formula products to new parents. The vast majority of hospitals in
Massachusetts and the US give out free diaper bags containing formula to
new moms, and also accept free formula for in-hospital use. This
marketing practice deviates from the standards followed by health care
providers and hospitals in every other respect. For example, hospitals
do not give out coupons for name-brand clothing, name-brand foods
outside of maternity. "We'd never tolerate the thought of hospitals
giving out coupons for Big Macs on the cardiac unit," said Dr. Bartick,
an internist. Since lack of breastfeeding is clearly associated with
multiple adverse health outcomes in children and mothers, distribution
of formula marketing materials by hospitals and health care providers
has been recognized as unethical since at least 1981, when the World
Health Organization approved the International Code of Marketing of
Breastmilk Substitutes.

Members of MBC on the taskforce that drafted the new regulations helped
make the case for eliminating the diaper bags. The formula bags may
actually cost families money: "Not only is there the expense of formula,
but parents and society end up paying for medications and time lost from
work to care for a sick child," says Dr. Kimberly Lee, a neonatologist
at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

As proof of the companies' influence, Dr. Lee notes that parents almost
always continue to use the brand of formula their baby got in the
hospital - and those formulas are typically the most expensive. These
new regulations will go far in improving the quality of care to mothers
and their newborns.


Colorado Health Insurance said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

Justthe4ofus said...

Isn't this great. I am in VT and we would love to see VT adopt a similar program.