Recently, I blogged for the International Lactation Consultant Association about the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to accept corporate funding from food giant, formula manufacturer and WHO Code Violator Nestle. This action has led to outrage from mothers, fathers, lactation professionals and public health advocates who are banding together to be a unified voice for change. In this guest post, longtime WHO Code advocate and Executive Director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA), Marsha Walker, discusses the ramifications of this enormous error in judgement and what you can do to help us influence WHO to rescind their agreement with Nestle.
World Health Organization Sells Out to Nestle
by Marsha Walker RN, IBCLC
Nestle has bought a seat at the policy-making table of the World Health Organization. WHO has accepted funding from Nestle 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 Nestle to help reduce the very problem to which Nestle products contribute. Cash-strapped WHO has started to rely on corporate offenders such as Nestle 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 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.
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 the 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. Of course, be ready for Nestle’s response. Nestle 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 Nestle 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