HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN SPONSORSHIP UPDATE
We have received a response to our letter to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children regarding the nutrition information seminar that is being sponsored by Mead Johnson, Abbott Ross and Nestlé Nutrition on May 16, 2005.
In her letter to INFACT Canada dated March 10, 2005, Mary Jo Haddad, President and CEO wrote,
“At The Hospital for Sick Children, corporate sponsors provide the financial support needed to deliver important education programs for professionals as well as for patients and families. Sponsors have no input into the content of the presentations and the hospital does not endorse the sponsors’ products.
Experts at Sick Kids agree breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies and counsel all women to breastfeed. Some babies do not have access to safe breast milk because their mothers are undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, or taking medications that have been proven harmful to babies if ingested while feeding. These babies require a safe feeding alternative. Other women may decide, for personal reasons, not to breastfeed. We respect a woman’s right to choose how she wants to feed her baby.”
In response, we strongly urged that the sponsorship agreement with Mead Johnson, Abbot Ross and Nestlé be cancelled, and that policies are put in place that reflect the Hospital for Sick Children’s obligation to ensure the best possible health outcomes for infants and young children.
Please add your voice of concern and help persuade Canada’s foremost children’s hospital to stop putting the lives of infant and young children at risk!
INFACT Canada's Response Letter
23 March 2005
Mary Jo Haddad
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Dear Ms. Haddad:
Thank you for your letter of March 10th, regarding INFACT Canada’s concerns about the upcoming presentation, “The Feeding Relationship: Feeding Behaviour of Children,” to be held at the Hospital for Sick Children on May 16th, 2005. We are pleased that you have taken the time to consider the implications of sponsorship of educational seminars by Mead Johnson, Abbot Ross and Nestlé, manufacturers of infant formula products.
INFACT Canada is, however, disappointed that you have not cancelled this event. Moreover, we are concerned that you have failed to address the fundamental reason why corporate sponsorships by manufacturers of infant foods are antagonistic to the needs and interests of children and their mothers.
Sponsorships – either directly or indirectly - are solely about improving the corporate bottom line. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chief of Nestle S.A., the parent company of Nestlé Nutrition, echoed this sentiment recently. In a speech to Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club on March 8th, Brabeck-Letmathe said that companies should only pursue charitable endeavors with an underlying intention of making money for investors. “I think there is good reason for corporate philanthropy,” said Brabeck-Letmathe. “But as managers, we need to be very careful, because it is not our money we're handing out, but the money of shareholders.”
The impact of sponsored, educational events goes well beyond concerns about perceived endorsement of products. It is, in effect, the ability to influence the health care system and professionals working with infants and young children that raises our concerns.
Infant feeding products are unique, as they have the capacity to seriously damage the normal growth, development and health of infants and young children. As a consequence, the global health body, the World Health Assembly, has made critical recommendations to member states and the health care system.WHA Resolution 49.15 (2) states:
Concerned that health institutions and ministries may be subject to subtle pressure to accept, inappropriately, financial or other support for professional training in infant and child health;
It urges member states to take the following measures:
(2) to ensure that the financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest, especially with regard to the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative;
(3) to ensure that monitoring the application of the International Code and subsequent relevant resolutions is carried out in a transparent, independent manner, free from commercial influence;
This resolution was re-affirmed at the World Health Organization Executive Board meeting. Resolution EB115/7 (4), adopted January 24, 2005, requires that,
…financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest;
Additionally, Canada, as a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, has an obligation to ensure,
The right to the highest attainable standard of health and access to medical services; the State to attempt to diminish infant and child mortality, combat disease and malnutrition, ensure health care for expectant mothers, provide access to health education, develop preventive health care and abolish harmful traditional practices. (Article 24)
As a publicly funded institution, The Hospital for Sick Children is also bound by this obligation.
Yes, women indeed do have the right to make decisions about how they feed their infants and children. It is for that very reason that these sponsorships are so offensive and why the WHO has been so proactive in ensuring that such decisions are made without commercial interference. Women have the right to unbiased information, independent of the influence of the manufacturers of products competing with breastmilk.
The Hospital for Sick Children, as world-renowned institution, can be a national and global model, working in the best interest of children and mothers, by ensuring that information about the vital practices of breastfeeding and the recommended norms for complementary feeding is provided by credible, independent sources and not influenced by corporate self-interest.
We urge you to consider the importance for the Hospital for Sick Children to meet its obligations under the requirements of the World Health Organization’s recommendations on Infant and Young Child Feeding and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Therefore we strongly recommend the sponsorship agreement with Mead Johnson, Abbot Ross and Nestlé be cancelled, and that policies are put in place that reflect the Hospital for Sick Children’s obligation to ensure the best possible health outcomes for infants and young children.
Elisabeth Sterken, BSc, MSc, Nutritionist
National Director, INFACT Canada
Steering Committee, United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition
“We allowed the companies to touch the lives of our babies, not because we did not care, but because we did not realize the consequences of granting such a privilege.”
Dr. Natividad Clavano
Chief of Paediatrics
Bagulo General Hospital, The Philippines
“Most are unaware that sponsorship and dialogues can be used for ‘image transfer’ – the transfer of the good reputation of the sponsored or invited group, organization or person to the sponsor or organizer of the meeting.”
“Engineering of Consent: Uncovering Corporate PR”,
The CornerHouse, March 1998