Friday, August 31, 2007

It all comes down to this:

Getting between the need and the person, all because of greed.

Washington, DC (AHN) - A national campaign to help educate mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding was "toned down" to the point of futility in response to pressure from the formula industry, The Washington Post reported Friday.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, babies who are not exclusively breastfed for their first 6 months are more likely to develop a wide range of health problems, including ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. They also show a 21% higher mortality rate. However, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who recently testified that the Bush administration let political considerations interfere with public health campaigns, says that only about one in four babies are breastfed long enough to receive the benefits.

That's why the federal Office on Women's Health developed a "Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding" in 2000 to help educate women about breastfeeding. The campaign included hard-hitting ads, such as one featuring an asthma puffers that looked like a bottle of formula, warning, "babies who aren't breastfed are up to 250% more likely to suffer respiratory diseases."

The formula industry fought the ads, brining in powerful lobbyists, such as Clayton Yeutter, who served as agriculture secretary during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Carmona was removed from the campaign and political appointees were brought in to drop the ads in favor of toned down messages. "Babies are born to be breastfed," one ad states simply.

In 2004 letters obtained by the Post, Yeutter and other lobbyists thanked then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson for his staff's action to eliminate "the most egregious distortions" aimed at "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding."

Meanwhile, breastfeeding rates have actually decreased.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating the allegations of political meddling in public health concerns.

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