ICDC revisits the Code in Sri Lanka

ICDC revisits the Code in Sri Lanka

With the support from the WHO Country Office, ICDC consultants were in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 27 June to 1 July to conduct a Workshop on the Monitoring and Enforcement of the Sri Lankan Code for the Promotion, Protection & Support of Breastfeeding and Marketing of Designated Products. This capacity building exercise for government officials of the Ministry of Health was an opportunity for ICDC to revisit its past work on the Code in the country.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes following its adoption in 1981. The initial national measure that was first adopted in 1983 and amended in 2002 was reviewed and commented upon by ICDC, and there was follow-up work carried out in the form of training and monitoring in 1990 and 1998. As with all countries, there was change of guards in infant and young child feeding, and collaboration with ICDC trickled down to training of a few officials and NGO workers in the new millennium. So the continuation of ICDC activities in Sri Lanka was a long time coming and to us, very timely as the Sri Lanka Code is being reviewed by the Ministry of Health.

ICDC was able to appraise officials involved on latest developments in the international arena, in particular, the newly adopted World Health Assembly resolution 69.9 that clarifies a number of crucial areas – including scope (inclusive of follow-up formulas and growing-up milks), messages relevant to promotion of complementary foods, cross-promotion, and conflicts of interest within healthcare systems.

On the marketing front, Sri Lanka also faces new challenges as new products and marketing tactics have surfaced. Moreover, as a result of its economic growth, Sri Lanka’s steadily-expanding market is targeted by manufacturers. Together with the emergence of public-private partnerships in the country, there have been growing concerns on whether these factors will affect their high breastfeeding rates and further compromise their complementary feeding practices.

Held at the Family Health Bureau, the workshop was organised jointly by the WHO Country Office and the Family Health Bureau, a department within the Ministry of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine. Amongst the participants were health workers, public health administrators, and legal officials, and they all showed a great deal of commitment to help improve overall Code implementation in Sri Lanka. Two Consultant Community Physicians from the New Born and Intra-natal Care Unit and Child Nutrition Unit of the Family Health Bureau also took on the role to be presenters on the National Infant and Young Child Situation and Programmes and Importance of Breastfeeding.

Monitoring was conceded to be something that needs to be done and can be taken on as part of existing duties of many of the officials present. The 5-day workshop included a monitoring field trip to hospitals and shops, and some of the findings were quite surprising to the participants. ICDC hopes that the workshop will spur participants to contribute to the efforts of the Family Health Bureau in improving Code monitoring in the country.As a public health administrator commented after participating in the training, “We feel quite empowered after the training! And a lot more motivated to monitor the violations actively!”

This workshop was well received by participants as reflected in their evaluation. Sri Lanka is endowed with a well-established healthcare system, and the enthusiasm shown by public health officials to safeguard the country’s high breastfeeding rates and infant and young child health seemed hopeful and promising.