Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Medical | By

US Disputes Report That It Opposed Breastfeeding Resolution

US Disputes Report That It Opposed Breastfeeding Resolution

The U.S. threatened to withdraw military aid and engage in punitive trade tactics with Ecuador after it introduced the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly, the Times reported. Tiny Ecuador, which had moved it, was threatened by trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid, and it was left to Russian Federation to step into the breach to hold off the bully.

The United States and many countries around the world now abide by the International Code on Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, a health policy framework for promoting breastfeeding adopted in 1981.

"The New York Times reported that the United States attempted to "water down" the wording of the resolution, focusing on two passages, the article said: "one requiring that countries "'protect, promote and support breast-feeding, '" and another that would place restrictions on companies selling baby formula that is, according to health officials, harmful.

Breast milk is linked to lower risks for children for everything from neurological development problems to diabetes.

Ecuador capitulated and did as the Americans demanded, The Times reported. When Ecuador backed off - after all, no small country likes to be in Washington's gun sights - the USA threatened any other country that might want to introduce it. This year's theme is "Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life" and is focused on breastfeeding as the foundation of lifelong good health for babies and mothers. The U.S. also unsuccessful lobbied to stop a World Health Organization initiative to give life-saving medicine to poor countries, siding with the pharmaceutical industry's intellectual property concerns.

Patti Rundall, who leads the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, told the Times, "What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the US holding the world hostage and trying to overturn almost 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health". Four decades of research have shown that breast milk is more beneficial for infants that formula.

"The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding", HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement.

For a recent paper, University of California, Berkeley, economist and public-health expert Paul Gertler. and a team of colleagues looked at infant mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries, comparing regions that had access to infant formula to regions that didn't.

There were some signs even before the meeting in Geneva that there might be some pushback against the original resolution. Health and Human Services spokespeople repeatedly denied the allegation. Nevertheless, formula is still an estimated $47 billion global industry, according to Euromonitor, and has been growing steadily. Perez-Escamilla is also a scientific adviser to the World Health Organization on the topic of breastfeeding.

At the same assembly, US leaders sided with the pharmaceutical industry and fought unsuccessfully against an effort to help poor countries get access to lifesaving medications. If the incident played out the way it was presented, he said, it would show "really how irrelevant the becoming as a key player in worldwide forums, because it didn't work".

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