Breastfeeding and Code monitoring: The first step in tackling double burden of malnutrition

From the 28 – 30 March 2018, ICDC’s Legal Advisor Yeong Joo Kean served as a resource person at a conference….

Panel of speakers at valedictory session

From the 28 – 30 March 2018, ICDC’s Legal Advisor Yeong Joo Kean served as a resource person at a conference on Critical Public Health Consequences of Double Burden of Malnutrition and the Changing Food Environment in South and South-East Asia. India International Centre, New Delhi.  The conference was held under the auspices of People’s Health Movement (PHM-Global), Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (PHM-India), Public Health Resource Network (PHRN), World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA), Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation (NSF) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Our sister organisation, the Breastfeeding Protection Network of India (BPNI), was a co-organiser.

The background to the Conference was the high levels of undernutrition in many countries of South and South-East Asia and the slow progress made in this area relative to most other regions and in absolute terms. The region is at the same time facing a new situation whereby gains related to reduction in under-nutrition are being undermined by an increase in overweight and obesity.  This three-day conference raised important issues that underlie these high levels of malnutrition, especially those related to changes in food systems. Some 300 participants, including policy makers, activists, academics and researchers who have a significant role in shaping the food and nutrition policy landscape in South and South-East Asia and other parts of the world were present at the conference.

Joo Kean with IBFANers from Afghanistan and Bangladesh

Monitoring is essential in protection of BF

Talking about hot products and powers of Big Food with JP Dadich of BPNI

Joo Kean facilitated a workshop on Nutrition and the Market: The Challenge of Nutraceuticals and Big Food wherein she spoke on how growing-up milks (GUMS) are the “hot products” in a USD45 billion baby milk market. She shared data on how industry is focusing on this sector which made up 55% of the market using cross-promotional tactics and unsubstantiated claims. As GUMs are unnecessary and could be harmful to the health and development of children, she called for regulation of the promotion of GUMs now that WHO has confirmed this range of product are covered by the scope of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

In the valedictory session of the Conference, Joo Kean spoke on Protecting Breastfeeding: Monitoring the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. In this session, Joo Kean reminded everyone that breastfeeding prevents obesity and non-communicable diseases in later life. She stressed the need to protect breastfeeding through monitoring.  Although Code violations are widespread, the Infant Milk Substitute Act is quite robust in regulating BMS promotion in India. She also highlighted the progress made with regulation in Afghanistan and Bangladesh. She shared concerns about powerful and well-funded strategies which are encroaching into the area of public health namely sponsorship of health professionals and public private partnerships in health programmes. These strategies gave rise to conflict of interest and should be avoided. This call resonated with conference participants who throughout the conference were made aware of corporate strategies which threatens food security, health and equity.

Some international delegates at the conference