American hospitals have been steadily trending toward ending formula promotion over the past decade. Public Citizen’s new report, Top Hospitals’ Formula for Success: No Marketing of Infant Formula, shows how the vast majority of the nation’s most reputable hospitals—including 7 in California—are acting ethically and thwarting pressure from formula companies to aggressively market to their patients, which can undermine breastfeeding.
- 67% of top-ranked maternity hospitals reported not distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags, formula samples or other formula promotional materials to mothers in their maternity units. Another 11% reported limiting formula bag and sample distribution to mothers who request them.
- A substantial majority (82%) of U.S. News and World Report’s Honor Roll of the country’s best hospitals reported having a policy or practice against distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.
These new findings underline what we already know: hospital breastfeeding policy is finally trending in the right direction! The CDC Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) Survey shows that, by 2011, almost 46% of hospitals had discontinued formula discharge bags – way up from 27% in 2007. All hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voluntarily banned discharge bags, while others, including Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma and New York, are progressively moving in that direction. The number of Baby-Friendly hospitals continues to increase every month, and California is leading the pack with 59 and dozens more in the pipeline.
More than 16,500 people have signed Public Citizen’s petition calling on the three major formula companies—Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nestle—to stop marketing in healthcare facilities. ACTION: Sign the petition and forward it to friends before Public Citizen advocates deliver it to these companies next month!
At the eleventh hour, Congress finally came together to re-open the government, thus averting any further damage to our economy and allowing WIC to keep the doors open without disruption or harm to the families we serve. What a relief!
Thanks to all who helped us send a strong message to end the shutdown. While cynical and unsupportable from a policy perspective, it was politically important to see House Republicans try to pass a bill restoring WIC funds. If nothing else, that somewhat desperate action showed that your voices were loud, clear, and most definitely heard!
We can now “turn down the heat” that we have been sending daily, in the form of real WIC stories and voices, to members of the California Congressional Delegation. But it’s too early to turn the stove off. The Continuing Resolution passed on October 16 only keeps the government funded until January 15, and raises the debt limit until February 7. This means WIC funding level of $6.5 billion is now available retroactive to October 1 but only through mid-January, leaving more uncertainly for WIC providers and participants.
Congress is supposed to come up with a negotiated budget plan by December 13. Maybe they will re-think the draconian sequester cuts that loom in January. Maybe they will work out a “grand bargain” on larger tax and entitlement issues. But don’t hold your breath!
Because of continued uncertainty, CWA will continue to urge Congress to protect WIC and other critical health and safety net programs and avoid repeating the extremely damaging brinksmanship we’ve witnessed in recent weeks. In other words, we still need “WE NEED WIC!” The campaign will continue into 2014; we won’t stop until WIC stands on the solid ground it deserves.
ACTION: Keep your advocacy simmering! Reassure WIC families and grocers, continue providing quality services, and get some rest over the holidays. We may need you again!
The government shutdown has generated heavy media coverage of WIC’s precarious situation. Like most other, states, California WIC has only enough unspent federal funds left to allow normal operation for about a month. This is an unprecedented challenge for WIC provider/advocates, who need to avoid panic, focus on service -- and get active!
CWA is sharing three key messages with the public:
- WIC is still open for business for the time being.
- Terminating services to WIC families is unconscionable and dangerous to the public’s health.
- Congress needs to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution to end the government shutdown and allow WIC to continue to operate.
While those of you on the frontline concentrate on keeping the doors open for WIC families, CWA will activate a rapid response to this crisis, using both traditional and social media outlets. We’re ready to roll with WE NEED WIC – Action Time!
Thanks your amazing grassroots efforts as part of the WE NEED WIC Campaign, we have plenty of reserve “fuel” that we can quickly use to “turn up the heat” on key members of the House to fix this mess and pass a simple Continuing Resolution funding WIC for the rest of FY 2014. Over 500 businesses and organizations have endorsed full funding for WIC. Thousands of participants have signed paper plates describing how important WIC is to them, and we still have lots in storage! And we have dozens of heartfelt video testimonials from individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by WIC.
If Congress fails to pass a CR by the third week in October, we may have to consider more direct action and ask for wider local involvement. Please stay tuned!
It’s easy for a busy WIC counselor to fall into the trap of thinking that breastfeeding, a complex personal decision and intimate behavior unique to every new mother, has very little to do with the wider world of politics and health policy. But like any other human behavior, breastfeeding is shaped by family and social norms, environmental cues, and institutional policies. In fact, addressing California’s breastfeeding inequities is an issue of not just policy, but social justice!
That’s why CWA is advocating so hard to reform breastfeeding policies in California. We began with hospitals, where a mother’s decision to breastfeed can be fully supported …or subtly undermined by lack of clear policies, poor protocols, or cultural assumptions. Since 2006, CWA and the UC Davis Human Lactation Center have released hospital breastfeeding rate reports, with the latest released in August 2013: Policies, Promises, and Practice, with updated state and county fact sheets. Once again, the data clearly show that the exclusive breastfeeding “gap” is greatest in hospitals serving low-income mothers and babies – i.e., WIC participants.
At the same time, our sponsored bill, SB 402 (De León/Pavley) passed the Legislature on August 30, and is now awaiting signature by Governor Jerry Brown by October 12. SB 402 will require all California perinatal hospitals to implement “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” per the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, or an alternate process adopted by a health care service plan that includes evidenced-based policies and practices and targeted outcomes, by January 1, 2025. The bill has virtually no opposition and is supported by a large and diverse group of supporters, including major organizations such as the California Hospital Association, Kaiser Permanente, the California Nurses Association and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.
Momentum is definitely building to finally fix the hospital piece of the breastfeeding policy puzzle! Next up: the important role of perinatal healthcare providers, especially given the opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act.
Find out if your local hospital is Baby-Friendly, and if your community’s health clinic supports breastfeeding moms. If they aren’t, start advocating! By protecting the health of mothers and babies while reducing health care costs, breastfeeding benefits us all!
Our last blog explained why we’ll have to work so hard to protect WIC from damaging cuts that could take years to restore. It will take a new kind of message to overcome ideologically driven opposition. That’s why CWA is launching Phase 3 of our WE NEED WIC public outreach campaign, and we need YOU to pull it off!
Over the summer, you can help us build a strong California WIC Business-Community Alliance (BCA). The BCA Campaign focuses on broadening WIC’s support base in California, engaging but moving beyond our traditional support within the nutrition and advocacy communities, with a special emphasis on the business community.
Potential WIC Business-Community Alliance partners will be asked to sign on to a general support Statement. A long and impressive WIC BCA Endorsement List will demonstrate to the public and to policy makers the breadth and depth of the support for WIC. Groups wishing to sign the Statement can do so through the CWA webpage portal or sign a paper version when asked to by a local WIC advocate. The California Grocers Association (CGA), American Academy of Pediatrics District 9, and many other organizations have already signed on.
The goal is to get at least 500 WIC BCA Partners signed on by September 2013. Our strongest emphasis will be placed on state and local companies and small businesses, as well as commercial trade and professional associations. We will also seek support from our traditional partners in the public health, faith-based, and advocacy communities. This public outreach effort is not a lobbying effort, but it will help demonstrate to the public and policy makers the depth of the links between the WIC program and California’s economy – from farmers to grocers to the medical community and employers looking to California’s next generation for healthy workers.
We will surpass our goal if each local agency collects just TEN WIC BCA endorsements! Planning ideas, outreach templates, talking points -- everything you need to get started is in our on-line Toolkit.
Are you in? Contact Donna for help at
For busy WIC practitioners, sometimes it may seem like there is a constant need to advocate for adequate WIC funding with policymakers. Why are there so many urgent Alerts and Calls to Action? Why are both NWA and CWA always reminding you to invite your member of Congress for a clinic visit?
Can’t we all take a break?? I wish we could!
Three realities require us to maintain our vigilance and activism in the foreseeable future. First, we all know WIC is a domestic discretionary program, 100% federally funded. Even in a good year, we must work hard to ensure that our annual Congressional appropriations allow us to serve all needy families and pursue program improvements like breastfeeding services and EBT.
Next, while all other major nutrition programs (SNAP, school meals) are exempt from mandatory budget sequestration that will be imposed on federal programs for the next nine years, WIC is not statutorily protected and is very vulnerable to across-the-board cuts.
Thirdly, a polarized and divisive atmosphere in Washington means that WIC may not continue to enjoy the bi-partisan support that has allowed it to survive largely unscathed for decades. Republicans control the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress and are heavily influenced by the “Tea Party” wing. There are a growing number of Republican House members (and some conservative Democrats) who do not feel the same affinity for WIC as their more moderate brethren, many of whom are now retiring. They are more ideologically driven, are looking to cut any and all federal programs, especially domestic discretionary programs.
In FY 2013, WIC was funded sufficiently only because an adequate appropriations baseline, combined with declining caseload and other factors, allowed us to serve all eligible participants without waiting lists. The fiscal year that begins this October 1 is another story entirely. President Obama’s FY 2014 WIC funding proposal of $7.142 billion should be fully adequate, but it’s far from certain to be the final number. There will be less money left in the carryover/contingency pots to buffer funding cuts. The House has already appropriated inadequate funds and essentially eliminated set-aside funds for breastfeeding peer counselors, EBT/MIS and research. Even if Senate appropriators do better, sequestration will again be in play, with extremely fierce competition over scarce domestic discretionary funding.
So, once again, we’ll have to work very hard to WIC from damaging cuts that could take years to restore. To make it fun, CWA will launch Phase Three of our WE NEED WIC Campaign - California's WIC Business-Community Alliance - this summer. Stay tuned for more next week!