Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mexican office of the Pan American Health Organization accepts funding from Multi-nationals!

What do you think? If multi-nation companies fund WHO organizations, are they:

  1. Paying to clean up the mess they made, or;
  2. Extending their influence over health organizations in an effort to push their "profits first, customer health be damned" agenda.
That's one of the questions that Friday's Reuter's "Special Report: Food, beverage industry pays for seat at health-policy table" should have asked.

Personally, I think these multi-nationals should be taxed according to their negative impact on our health care bill. You produce sugar-laden drinks? And sell multi-millions of dollars of those drinks? That's your share of the health care costs to Type-2 Diabetes treatments. Tax them to the point where it is no longer profitable for them to sell products that harm our health.

And multi-nationals have no business at the policy table of the World Health Organization.

As for the WHO, I understand that it's important to have an international body that watches out for health trends world-wide... They establish protocols to deal with disease outbreaks, and identify things like obesity as a world-wide concern, instead of a regional concern... But maybe it needs to be linked to an association of academic institutes, rather than a body made up of politicians, bureaucrats,  and diplomats.

Off on a related tangent - 
This is not new stuff, by the way. Way back in grade 13 World Geography class (circa 1985), one of my classmates, Tracey, did a project on Nestlé's initiative to provide baby formula to third world country hospitals. This is the same Nestlé company mentioned in the Reuter's article. It was a multi-national then and they got a little bigger since then. On the face of it, Nestlé was providing free formula to hospitals. They look like the good guys, right?

However, they were also influencing doctors to push the formula onto poor moms who had just given birth. The doctors got the newborns hooked on formula instead of breast milk, thereby creating a new customer for Nestlé. The problem was that theses very poor moms didn't have the money to buy formula. Now that they were convinced that the formula was better than their breast milk, and their own breast milk stopped production, they had no choice but to buy the formula. However, they didn't have money. The formula had to be mixed with distilled water. Their water sources were often polluted, unreliable, and/or kilometres away. What is a mom to do. She must feed her baby. So she does what she knows: dilute the formula so that it lasts as long as possible...until she can come up with the money for another can. Sometimes she'd stretch a can for up to a week-worth of feedings. Is it any wonder that infant mortality rates were so high? There was/is rampant malnutrition in the third world. That can was supposed to be enough for 1 day worth of feedings, not a week!

I never did hear if Nestlé is still practicing this horrible technique in the third world. I've heard Big Pharma does this all the time, all over the world. You can see it on tv. All those drug commercials for erectile disfunction, depression, smoking cessation, etc. So it wouldn't surprise me.

I gave birth to my daughter in 1987. The nurses at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, half-heartedly tried to get me to nurse my daughter. I didn't have much success. Maybe because they had bottle-fed her right after I gave birth and before I had a chance to nurse her. Who knows? She was a very hungry baby and I was very concerned that she wasn't getting enough nourishment from me. They sent me home with a Carnation Formula kit from Nestlé, and my daughter was bottle-fed from that point on.

I regret I was not more adamant about breast feeding. But thankfully, the Civic Hospital has changed since I gave birth in 1987. My daughter is now the mother of two beautiful children: both born at the Civic Hospital, now the Ottawa Hospital - Civic Campus. My daughter was whole-heartedly encouraged to breast-feed! No one offered a bottle of formula to her. No one took her babies away after they were born to feed them in the nursery. Both her children were by her beside from the time they were born, until they left the hospital. For that, I am very grateful. It's a regret my daughter will not have.

I just hope that the hospitals in Africa, that Tracey spoke of in 1985, have kicked Nestlé out and kept the multi-nationals away from all those new mothers. If someone knows the current information on this topic, please post it. We cannot forget the past sins of multi-nationals. We need to learn from history and fight against its repetition.

Post your thoughts. And have a lovely Sunday :)