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Please consider electronically signing the below petition, sponsored by the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition. This petition supports the proposed ban against marketing of infant formula by hospitals through the distribution of formula company gift bags at discharge. Governor Romney killed this consensus-based regulation in February, putting pharmaceutical company profits above public health. The ban is getting a second chance, when the Public Health Council reconsiders it in May.
The ban has nothing to do with a mother’s choice of how to feed her baby, and infant formula would still be available in hospitals. The ban simply addresses inappropriate marketing of baby formula by hospitals.
To Gov. Mitt Romney, Lieut. Gov. Kerry Healey, Commissioner Paul Cote, members of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and the Public Health Council:
Should pharmaceutical companies make your health care decisions? Governor Romney says yes. We say no. The Romney administration has put the interests of the pharmaceutical industry above public health, by protecting the corporations who produce baby formula. We support the proposed ban on hospital-based formula marketing, which includes a ban of hospital distribution of formula company discharge bags.
- About 80% of US baby formula is sold by big pharmaceutical companies — these are the companies who rely on hospitals to distribute their formula marketing bags.
- Hospital-based formula marketing signals that medical providers endorse formula-feeding. This marketing technique interferes with the clinician-patient relationship.
- Many organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the Massachusetts Medical Society, have called for an end to the hospital distribution of formula company gift bags. The federal General Accountability Office recently discouraged this practice, defining it as marketing that undermines breastfeeding. A 2000 Surgeon General’s report also condemned these and other formula marketing strategies.
- Multiple scientific studies show that the industry-sponsored discharge bags undermine breastfeeding, by causing breastfeeding mothers to start using formula.
- When hospitals market infant formula, they compromise public health. Mothers who do not breastfeed increase their own risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Children who are formula-fed have increased risks for many infections, as well as for chronic diseases such as type 1 diabetes, leukemia and lymphoma, and obesity.
- Formula manufacturers have argued that the bags do not reduce breastfeeding rates. Their practices suggest otherwise. If the bags weren’t an effective marketing investment, why would they distribute them?
- Each bag costs the companies less than $7. A year of formula costs parents up to $2,000, a significant portion of which pays for marketing. The bags are not really “free” — they are paid for by families who buy formula.
- Infants who are not breastfed have significantly higher health care costs, and their parents lose more time from work as a result — and we all pay for that. Formula feeding costs tax dollars by increasing expenses for MassHealth and WIC food benefits. A 2001 report estimates that the country could save at least $3.6 billion in annual health care costs if breastfeeding rates rose to the levels recommended by the Surgeon General.
Doctors and nurses want to take care of patients, not sell baby formula. We support the proposed ban on formula marketing bags.