Sunday, November 11, 2012

World Health Organization Sells Out to Nestlé - Guest Post, Marsha Walker

Updated Nov 20, 10 a.m. MDT - There is now a petition - please sign and share! Link here:

Updated, Nov 14, 2012, 8 a.m. MDT - see response from WHO below.

This guest post by Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC, Executive Director, National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, will also be on the NABA website and in the US Lactation Consultant Association monthly newsletter. 

World Health Organization Sells Out to Nestlé 

Nestlé has bought a seat at the policy-making table of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

WHO has accepted funding from Nestlé for WHO's obesity reduction initiative. A Reuters news article  reported that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO's regional office for the Americas, accepted $150,000 from Nestlé to help reduce the very problem to which Nestlé products contribute. 
Cash-strapped WHO has started to rely on corporate offenders such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola to fund its health initiatives, placing itself in a massive conflict of interest, as policy is shaped by companies who stand to gain the most from the ill health their products promote. Disease promoting corporations have found that it is much more profitable to invest in a seat at the policy-making table to avoid sanctions, monitoring, and regulation than it is to cease producing the products that contribute to chronic diseases and conditions such as obesity. The wolf in sheep's clothing comes bearing money and is rewarded for its poor corporate behavior by aligning itself with the good name of respected health agencies. 

See Jennie Bever Babendure's post on
the Lactation Matters blog here. Jennie
also blogs at Breastfeeding Science.
Breastfeeding advocates who are staunch supporters of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the Code) are aghast that WHO is violating its own Code. By abdicating its responsibility to infants and mothers, WHO is modeling the very behavior the Code was created to prevent. 

This blow to the Code may seem overwhelming to those who work so hard to support breastfeeding mothers. Even though we do not have the unlimited funding of large corporations we have our voices that can be raised together so that WHO might hear us. Consider joining Friends of the WHO Code Facebook group. We can harness social media to let WHO know how we feel. Post to WHO's Facebook page, tweet @WHO to let WHO know how damaging this conflict of interest is to the Code.  (Update: there is now a petition.

Of course, be ready for Nestlé's response. Nestlé has what they call their Digital Acceleration Team that monitors hot spots in the social media and jumps in quickly to apply damage control when Nestlé or its products are unfavorably mentioned. Let's use what we have at our fingertips to right an egregious wrong.

Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC
Executive Director, National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy

Updated, Nov 14, 2012, 8 a.m. MDT - WHO has responded with this statement on its Facebook page, and with a series of Tweets.