Last week, the New York Times reported that the United States tried to block a World Health Assembly resolution encouraging governments to promote breastfeeding among their citizens. The United States also reportedly tried to remove from the resolution language recommending that countries curb the promotion of food products that may undermine the health of young children, threatening the resolution’s would-be sponsor, Ecuador, with economic punishment if the changes were not approved. While the measure was ultimately passed after Russia stepped in to introduce it, the fact that the episode occurred at all is deeply unsettling.
Dear Secretary Azar: On behalf of the members of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, and the students, faculty and leadership of America’s public health schools and programs, I write to express our disappointment and dismay at the United States’ efforts to block a resolution offered at the World Health Assembly that called on all governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding.” We ask that you clarify the United States’ position on breastfeeding, including why we apparently now are opposed to its promotion and why the United States also now apparently is opposing efforts to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. Lastly, since you led the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly, we ask you to explicitly state who approved this radical change in U.S. policy