DIGITAL MARKETING IS OUT OF CONTROL – A STRONG WHA RESOLUTION IS NEEDED TO PROTECT MOTHERS AND BABIES
17 January 2024 – IBFAN-BMA
2024 is a reporting year for Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition so Digital Marketing will be discussed under the “Healthier Populations” agenda item. With so many serious emergencies caused by conflicts and climate events on our minds, it’s easy to forget the importance of protecting and supporting women who want to breastfeed – a lifeline for so many babies that provides food, nurturing care and immune support.
Digital marketing is fast becoming the predominant source of exposure to promotion of baby feeding products globally. In 2022, WHO’s report on digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes described its cross border extent and power. It is now totally out of control and parents and carers everywhere are targeted by paid ‘influencers’ and other deceptive schemes with information that undermines WHO and national health recommendations and disempowers parents.
A WHA Resolution supporting the WHO Guidance on digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes (Digital Guidance ENG) would send a clear message to all WHO Member States that there is a political expectation to implement it. Implementation of this Guidance will have zero cost to governments, yet the lowering of healthcare costs and stronger, more able workforces will benefit national and family economies.
It is important to note that the DG report concludes as follows:
ACTION BY THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
32. The Board is invited to note the report and to provide the following guidance to the Secretariat in respect of the questions set out below.
- As the comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition is coming to an end in 2025, what next steps should be taken by the Secretariat in preparation for this deadline and in support to achieving Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030, considering both the implementation plan and the formulated targets?
- Regarding the guidance on regulatory measures aimed at restricting digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes, how can uptake of the guidance be strengthened?
Infant feeding in Emergencies. Food insecurity and malnutrition is now a reality for far too many people. We will be reminding policy makers of the need to support and protect women who want to breastfeed – a resilient practice that provides food, nurturing care, immune support and is a lifeline in emergencies. Pre-preparedness plans must follow the IFE Operational Guidance, and include appropriate training, alongside Conflicts Interest safeguards – not just for disasters, but also for ‘normal ‘ times.
Messaging: We will call for safeguards to prevent appeals that promote ultra-processed fortified products as magic bullets with no mention of breastfeeding and the importance of bio-diverse foods.
Global Trade: We will ask UN and humanitarian agencies to use their considerable diplomatic influence at Codex and all global fora towards a One Health approach and to challenge the corporate-led food system that has done so much harm to the ecosystem and bio-diverse sustainable foods.
There will also be discussions about a social participation resolution, Climate Change and many other related issues.
Deadlines for submitting Resolutions
A new proposed timetable for the submission of Resolutions has caused some confusion amongst Member States so we have asked WHO for legal advice.
Here is the response from Dr Armstrong, Director of WHO’s Governing Bodies Department. He clarifies that “resolutions or decisions should be introduced at least 15 days before the opening of the session and not later than the close of the first day of the session (22 January)…. However, as you highlight below, MS are currently undergoing both formal and informal reforms in relationship to governance. It is the latter which led to MS agreeing amongst themselves to introduce deadlines which would provide them with greater certainty in relationship to matters they must contend with. Any draft resolution received of a non-urgent nature would likely not be well received by the board – however, as mentioned above, it is the legal right for a MS to propose one.”
EB 153 (May 2023) Template and recommended timeline for proposing resolutions and decisions.EXECUTIVE BOARD EB153 (2) ……(b) that, if such proposals miss the deadlines set out in that timeline, the proposing Member State will share the rationale with all Member States via email regarding the urgency of having their proposal considered in the current cycle and the consequences of delaying its consideration until the following governing body cycle;
IBFAN Press Release, May 2022; Thailand and Bangladesh urge WHO to take the lead in tradeEB 152 2023. This includes statements from 45 Countries.
PHM Tracker link https://who-track.phmovement.org/index.php/
Articles on digital marketing that may be useful -some on PubMed digital marketing breastmilk substitute – Search Results – PubMed (nih.gov)
Original text: Baby Milk Action