The WHO Code–Who Cares?

Time-frame: 60-120 minutes
CERP: yes

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions is a set of recommendations for member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) designed to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats. It is often referred to as the ‘ WHO Code’. It was introduced in 1981 in response to the concerns being raised about the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in developing countries. The WHO Code was adopted as a resolution by the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the WHO, in May 1981. The Code aims to contribute ‘to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution’.
The United States voted against the adoption of the Code and has since made little attempt to adopt any portion of the Code into regulation or law. Infant formula marketing has become ubiquitous and highly sophisticated using techniques such as artificial intelligence, data mining, predictive analytics, machine learning, and history sniffing. Social media influencers and celebrities promote infant formula and even healthcare professionals collaborate with formula companies. Some people, organizations, businesses, and government entities think the Code is outdated, irrelevant, and ignore the implication of not meeting their obligations under the Code. Adherence to the Code reduces the specter of conflicts of interest, serving to advance the priority of breastfeeding and the provision of human milk. The Code places the interests of underfinanced national governments and non-governmental organizations promoting breastfeeding against those of multinational corporations that make hundreds of millions of dollars annually marketing infant formulas.

This presentation will encompass the history and purpose of the Code, its provisions and subsequent resolutions, the obligations of healthcare professionals, organizations, and governments, what Code violations look like, why the Code is still relevant, how to remain Code compliant, and what can be done to advance provisions of the Code. Code compliance is challenging, and this presentation will look at real-life situations, work through common questions and challenges to the Code, and build your knowledge and skills surrounding Code issues to meet professional credential requirements regarding the Code.

Marsha Walker RN, IBCLC

Country: USA
Phone number: 781-893-3553
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